James Bryant

VooDoo activate James Bryant

Searching for answers, grasping at straws, the struggling New Orleans VooDoo have activated linebacker James Bryant from league suspension and placed linebacker Robert Henderson on league suspension, effectively releasing him. New Orleans also reassigned center Natiel Curry, taking him off the roster.

Despite not playing last Saturday against Chicago, Bryant should provide a boost. He is second on the VooDoo with 30 1/2 tackles, including four for losses and a pair of sacks. Henderson had 8 1/2 tackles on the season.

Coach Pat O' Hara worked newly acquired offensive lineman Bryce Tennison at fullback while fullback Jeramie Richardson may move to linebacker, his natural position. Tennison is 6'3, 305-pounds.

New Orleans (1-8) has lost eight straight games and will host the Cleveland Gladiators (2-7) Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Bookmark and Share

VooDoo Welcomes FB/LB James Bryant to the Graveyard

NEW ORLEANS – The Arena Football League has assigned fullback/linebacker James Bryant to the New Orleans VooDoo, announced the VooDoo front office Friday, December 14th.

Bryant played as a rookie with the Orlando Predators in 2010. With the Predators, he recorded 6.5 tackles and one sack. Bryant also returned a kick ten yards for a touchdown.

During his collegiate career, Bryant played for the University of Miami. In 2005, he was the team's No. 2 fullback where he rushed for eight yards, caught two passes for 44 yards and returned 2 kickoffs for 34 yards. Bryant switched to linebacker in 2006.

"JB played for me in 2010. He's a 100 mile an hour player and person," said VooDoo Head Coach Pat O'Hara. "He has tremendous energy and power."
TRANSACTION – The Arena Football League (AFL) assigned FB/LB James Bryant to the New Orleans VooDoo.

Bookmark and Share

Lions release James Bryant

It's no surprise, but Jason Hanson will be back for his 21st season as Detroit Lions kicker.

The Lions released undrafted rookie Derek Dimke today among their first wave of roster cuts, entrusting the kicking job to the 42-year-old Hanson.

Hanson has made 3 of 4 field goals this preseason, with a long of 50 yards.

The Lions had until 4 p.m. today to pare their 90-man roster down to the 75-player limit.

They also released receivers Jarett Dillard, Dominique Curry and Terrence Toliver, fullback James Bryant, running back Stephfon Green, safeties Sean Jones and Isaac Madison, guards Jacques McClendon and J.C. Oram, linebacker Slade Norris and defensive tackle Bobby Skinner today.

Bookmark and Share

James Bryant goes from pro boxer to fullback

James Bryant is throwing haymakers and roundhouses. It's lunch, and he's only talking, but Bryant is delivering some hard-hitting statements without reservation or apology.

He has dressed up like a mass murderer. He has enjoyed knocking people out. He has taken people's souls from them.

It's ghoulish. It's dark. It's the rarely discussed honest, visceral side of athletes who have products to sell.

Bryant, 26, is a rookie fullback in training camp with the Lions, but in another life not long ago, he was a professional heavyweight boxer. A good one. He could hit. Hard. And he learned how to listen.

Mostly, though, Bryant's true talent in the ring was devastation, in all its forms: physical, psychological and just for fun.

Bryant dressed in a Hannibal Lecter mask and a straightjacket for one weigh-in. He wore a Michael Myers mask from the "Halloween" horror flicks to another. Bryant went 4-1 with four knockouts in his brief boxing career that ended nearly two years ago.

Knockout is like big hit
Bryant fiddles with his salad during a lunchtime interview. Then he stops. The man who has been a boxer and a swimwear model and has played on both sides
of the ball and in almost every pro football league, suddenly stops.

He is considering a simple question: What is it like to knock someone out?

"Oh, man," he said.

A smile breaks across Bryant's face. He pauses for 12 seconds before he continues. He chooses a football analogy and says, "It felt like a big hit over the middle."

But it was so much more.

"It's just rage," Bryant said calmly. "You just turn into another person, another animal. And that's what happened when I first cleanly knocked somebody out. It was something special."

Bryant was recruited in 2009 to box for the Heavyweight Factory. The now-defunct Florida training facility specialized in reprogramming former football players into boxers. It enlisted giants of the sport such as Michael Moorer, Oliver McCall and Shannon Briggs as coaches.

Boxing paid off early
Bryant had a troubled two-year career at the University of Miami. He was suspended three times and later accused by booster Nevin Shapiro of accepting money and gifts.

"Never knew him," Bryant said of Shapiro. "Seen him one time. Didn't even shake his hand because I knew who he was and what he was about, and I never associated myself with him, never affiliated myself with him."

Bryant transferred to Louisville. He had a brief tryout in 2009 with the Washington Redskins. But he needed money and a way to stay in shape to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.

"What job can I go and be working out 6-7 hours a day and get paid really good money for it and have them take care of my housing, get paid weekly?" he said. "There's no job out there, except for boxing, except for maybe MMA fighting."

A friend put Bryant in touch with the Heavyweight Factory, and his first fight was Feb. 16, 2010, against Roy Boykins, a small heavyweight. It was a scheduled for four rounds. Bryant knocked down Boykins twice and KO'd him 2 minutes into the first round.

Bryant's first fight was intoxicating. The light glared off the canvas and faded the crowd into darkness.

"And it's just you and him," Bryant said. "And your main objective is to basically dominate an individual.

"Now, what does that mean? Reach into his soul and take it from him. That's what dominating an individual means, making him quit because he's mentally not prepared to endure what you're mentally prepared to endure."

Two months later, Bryant knocked out his next opponent, Andrew Maxwell, at 2:19 of the first round.

"James had a hell of a right hand and a left hook," Moorer said. "He had a good, strong jab. Everything was just solid. He was just a solid guy."
Bryant trained 8 hours a day, five days a week. In his third fight, Bryant knocked out Lujan Henderson in 45 seconds. Bryant was turning the sweet science into an art form.

"Jab, left hook, right hand," he said. "That was my best combination.

"I remember I knocked (Henderson) out. I came out knowing that's what I was going to run. Took a couple jabs to see what he was going to do. After the jab came out, I knew where his head was going to go, and I immediately executed that combination. He went down, and he didn't get back up."

For the Henderson fight, Bryant also brought something special. He dressed as Michael Myers and carried a sledgehammer to the weigh-in. Bryant is 6-feet-3, and Henderson stood 6-7, but Bryant swore he saw Henderson shrink.

"And if you're mentally not ready for that, that could drive somebody literally back home to their mom, because you don't know me from a grain of salt or a whole in the wall," Bryant said. "All you know is the next day you've got to get in the ring with somebody who showed up as a masked killer from all of our childhood scary movies with a sledgehammer staring at you."

Bryant has shown video of his fights to coaches and fellow running backs.

"I was pretty impressed, man," Kevin Smith said. "I like boxing myself, so it's good to see. You can see he's a warrior, but it'd be good if it could translate to the field."

"Oh, yeah," Joique Bell said. "He's a heavy hitter. And I think he uses the same mentality on the field. I think that's why it's good to have him here."

After three fights, Bryant was finding his talent in the ring -- even while he was trying to escape it. Boxing always had been a means to an end. The ring didn't scare Bryant, but its effects did.

"I've been in positions before where I've gotten in the ring with Oliver McCall, who's been boxing just as long as I've been alive, and I took a lot of damage," Bryant said. "I remember trying to have a simple conversation with a couple friends of mine and knowing what I wanted to say in my head but not being able to speak it clearly."

Bryant lost his next fight by a split decision. Then he KO'd Dieuly Aristilde in the fourth round in what would be his final fight on Oct. 19, 2010.

"I knew that I wasn't going to be in boxing forever," he said. "But when I left, I also knew that I could have been a great champion.

"But at the same time, at what cost? I'm very intelligent. I consider myself to be very handsome. At what cost would I be the heavyweight champ of the world? At a cost I wasn't really willing to pay."

Ring savvy clinched it
Bryant played in the Arena League in 2010, then landed in the Canadian Football League as a 280-pound defensive end in 2011. This year, he began his road back to the NFL when the Lions signed him in March. It was Bryant's boxing background that caught the eye of running backs coach Sam Gash at Miami's pro day.

"His size, his athleticism and the fact that he was a boxer kind of showed me that he does not have fear versus a one-on-one," Gash said. "And that is evident. We were in full pads (recently), and it was evident. He's going to run in there as hard as he can."

Bryant's boxing license doesn't expire until 2014, but he says he won't fight again. He's saving his battles for the football field, where he has turned his whole body into a fist that moves inexorably forward, pummeling anyone in its path.

"I'm going to dominate this individual until the game is over," he said. "Literally, chip away at him. What's the average per play, 5 to 8 seconds? So 5 to 8 seconds of your life, you're giving it all you got to mentally and physically defeat one individual.

"That's what boxing brings to the table when I step on the football field. And that's what football has brought to the table when I step in the boxing ring."

Bookmark and Share

Fullback James Bryant still fighting for Detroit Lions roster spot

ALLEN PARK -- Detroit Lions fullback James Bryant is still standing.

Such a simplistic statement, but yet, very impressive when you consider his lack of college and professional football experience. Bryant is still on a NFL roster despite have brief stints at the University of Miami, arena football leagues, and a CFL practice squad.

While many skeptics thought Bryant would never make it to training camp, he played in last week's preseason game against Cleveland. He is also expected to play against the Baltimore Ravens on Friday.

"I remember before the game, I was talking to (Mikel) Leshoure," Bryant said. "I said to him when I first got back onto the field in Canada, I cried. When I first got back on the field here, being my first NFL game, I was happy and joyous to be out there.

"Not only for the Detroit Lions, but knowing I'm going to be blocking for a core of running backs who know what the hell they're doing, and take their job seriously. That's what makes me take my job that much more seriously."

Bryant definitely took his job seriously against the Browns.

As the lead blocker on several running plays, Bryant helped running backs Keiland Williams and Joique Bell to combine for 160 of the Lions' 198 rushing yards this past Friday.

"I enjoyed being out there on Friday," Bryant said. "For one, (it was) my first NFL game, being removed from college since 2009, and then also playing a position I dreamed of playing since I was a little kid. Being able to come out here on Friday and do that was a great experience.

"Now we still got weeks on top of weeks to come in order for me to be here and be stuck here in the Detroit system. As we all know, it is what it is, but hopefully everything will come out on top for me."

It might be hard for Bryant to achieve his ultimate goal, which is to be on the 53-man roster.

Detroit does not use a fullback in its offense. Lions tight end Will Heller usually serves as the team's fullback on running plays. Bryant seems destined to this year's practice squad. While the practice squad is not his ultimate goal, it would be a good start to his NFL career.

Not bad for a person many skeptics never thought would make it this far.

Bryant is still standing.

"We're really not a fullback offensive team," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "Just like I said with the other running backs, it's not necessarily just playing fullback. You got to be available in the passing game; you have to be able to play special teams; you have to find a way to get on the field.

"It's also important for us to have a fullback for our defense to look at. We're going to play teams that have fullbacks. There's importance to the position. He's a young player. He needs to be more consistent. We're still working on that."

Bookmark and Share

Will Lions' James Bryant Signing Pay Off?

FB James Bryant: After eschewing a traditional fullback during the 2011 season, Mayhew looked north of the border to sign Bryant, who played DE for the CFL's B.C. Lions. Bryant's performance in Detroit's only padded practice was impressive. He used a combination of quickness and a massive (6-3, 257) frame to open huge holes in run drills. Both of Detroit's current healthy first-team RBs, Kevin Smith and Stefan Logan, have running styles that could benefit from a player of Bryant's stature clearing the way on interior run plays.

Bookmark and Share

James Bryant: "I'd run into a truck."

Lions rookie fullback James Bryant was sitting in front of his locker, peeling off his socks when he looked me in the eye and said, “I’d run into a truck. You know me.”

In fact, I do know Bryant.  I first met James when he was a 14 year-old freshman at Reading High School in Pennsylvania.  Over the course of the next four years, I watched him mature into an affable and intelligent young man off the football field and an absolute beast between the stripes.  

Bryant was to Reading as Ray Lewis is to Baltimore – not only the soul of the team but in many ways the soul of the city. He would deliver classic quotes in the days leading up to a game and back up his boisterous rhetoric by laying down the hammer with hits that echoed in the bleachers on game night.   

He left Reading a USA Today All-American linebacker, vowing to make it big.

Eight years later, much has changed, including a position switch to fullback, but the fire that defines him hasn’t.  That’s why I wasn’t surprised when Bryant, signed by the Lions this March, left such a lasting impression on those watching Tuesday’s practice in Allen Park.  

As the team worked out in full pads for the first time this season, Bryant was powerful, he was loud and he let it all hang out, delivering some of the most vicious shots of the morning while pounding his chest, hooting and hollering.

“It’s what I’ve been missing most,” said Bryant when talking about wearing his emotion on his sleeve.  “Coaches have been trying to control my rage and my chaos, keep it to a minimum.  But here, (running backs coach) Sam Gash and Jim Schwartz have allowed me to be me. It’s crazy for me to sit there and not be me.  It has to be at a professional level, but I have to play with the energy, emotion and passion I’ve always played with.”

In high school, Bryant played four grudge matches against Reading’s archrival, Wilson High School.  Wilson's quarterback, Chad Henne, would later star at the University of Michigan and currently plays with the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Over four years, with Bryant and Henne playing in each of the rivalry matchups, Reading won twice and Wilson won twice. The games were fierce battles staged in front of more than 10,000 fans.

When Bryant arrived in Detroit, I dug up some old video of a hit he delivered against Henne during one of those games.  Shivers go up your spine when you watch it.  I forwarded the video to Bryant via twitter.

“I watched that video and said, ‘I need to get back to that,’” said Bryant.  “I need a little of that again.”

If it weren’t for a twist of fate, Bryant may not be in Detroit with the opportunity to recapture that rage.

He most recently played in the Canadian Football League for the British Columbia Lions, as a defensive tackle.  He weighed 275 pounds and on a play-to-play basis, the contact was different.

“You’re only a yard away from the guy you’re hitting,” said Bryant.  “When you play fullback or linebacker, you’re working up a head of steam before you slam into somebody.”

So Bryant, eager to finally catch on with an NFL team, slimmed down to 252 pounds and approached the University of Miami coaching staff about working out for pro scouts and coaches during Miami’s pro day in March. 

Bryant began his college career at Miami in 2004, but ultimately transferred to Louisville, where he played through the 2008 season.

The Miami coaching staff allowed Bryant to be a part of the pro day, and Sam Gash attended the workout. 

Presumably, Gash was on hand to scout Lamar Miller, Miami’s running back who was ultimately drafted in the fourth round by the Dolphins this April.

“He found me,” said Bryant.  “If I hadn’t hooked up with the new coaching staff at Miami and Coach Gash hadn’t been at that workout, I’d still be in Miami trying to figure it out. Nobody else called.”

The Lions offered Bryant a deal and he signed with Detroit on March 16.  The man who had played with the Reading Express in the Indoor Football League, the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League and the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League finally was given a chance to prove himself in the NFL at a position where he can do what he does best – hit people.

“It made me a believer,” said Bryant.  “I believe in myself. I believe in my faith. I believe in the football gods, because this is a crazy opportunity. Four leagues in three years.”

The boisterous sparkplug who was once the soul of Reading still understands how important his journey is to those in his hometown.

“There are young men who have watched me grow up from that fall in 2000,” said Bryant.  “They’ve read the things I’ve said, watched my ups and downs.  I’d be a hypocrite to throw this opportunity away.  I’m a visual ambassador of Reading.  We’re just on the surface.  That dream is getting closer as the days and weeks go on.”

Bookmark and Share

With pads on, FB James Bryant brings the pain

ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions put on the pads at training camp for the first time on Tuesday. Here are some notes and observations from the team's fifth day of practice.

-- Fullback James Bryant was clearly excited to start delivering hits. In an early portion of practice, the Lions worked on some short-yardage runs. Bryant delivered punishing blocks on back-to-back snaps, opening up some nice running lanes for the backs. After each of those collisions, Bryant let out a scream and pounded his chest as teammates whooped and hollered.

-- On one of the snaps where Bryant provided a big block, running back Joique Bell was able to reverse field after his interior running lane closed and bust a long run around the right edge.

Bookmark and Share