John Milledge Academy Class of 2016 graduate Harrison Bryant is headed to Cleveland.
Bryant, a tight end, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the 115th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft Saturday. The Browns took the Florida Atlantic University product using the ninth pick in the fourth round. During his high school tenure, Bryant terrorized Trojan opponents on both sides of the football, initially from his offensive tackle and defensive end positions. Before finishing up high school he moved to tight end, a switch that will literally pay in millions.
Bryant’s family is from Gray in neighboring Jones County, but he now becomes the highest drafted player to have played his high school ball in Baldwin County since Baldwin High School linebacker LeRoy Hill. Hill was taken 98th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2005 draft. Bryant joins his high school head coach J.T. Wall, Baldwin High’s Maurice Hurt, Earnest Byner and Hill as Baldwin County products to be taken in the draft.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to see this happen to a guy and a family that we remain close to to this day,” a hyped up Wall told The Union-Recorder in a Saturday phone interview. “To walk with him in this journey he’s going through is surreal. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. He’s a hard-working dude and he’s not going to change who he is. That’s why he’s where he’s at today.”
Many analysts had Bryant rated as their second or third best tight end available in the 2020 draft, meaning him being selected on day two of the three-day event was a likely scenario. The second and third rounds came and went Friday, and Bryant’s name never got called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Bryant wound up as the sixth tight end taken this year. None of those five tight ends taken before him was the 2019 Mackey Award winner, though.
“I had him highly-rated on the board ahead of some of the tight ends that have already been selected… He has run after the catch ability and can drag tacklers for extra yards after the catch,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said of Bryant after he was chosen. “I think there’s a lot to like about Harrison Bryant coming out of Florida Atlantic.”
“We know he’s going to have a long NFL career and he’s going to make everybody around here very, very proud,” Wall said. “I just can’t say enough about what he’s accomplished. Doing what he did at FAU, he’s been down this road before. He’s been undervalued before, and it puts a chip on your shoulder. Great athletes oftentimes need ammunition to remain great athletes, and he’s got all the ammunition he needs right now.”
During Bryant’s FAU tenure he refined his skills at the tight end position in head coach Lane Kiffin’s offense. His production increased every year all the way through his senior season where he put up his best numbers yet, 65 receptions for 1,004 yards along with seven touchdowns. Bryant’s play earned him the prestigious John Mackey Award given annually to college football’s top tight end.
Upon signing his rookie contract, Bryant will become the fifth tight end on the Cleveland Browns’ roster barring any moves made by the franchise. The Browns are head coached Kevin Stefanski, 37, and this season will be his first at the helm of an NFL program. Stefanski was previously the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings before the Browns officially hired him Jan. 13.