A day after the NFL draft concluded earlier this month, former Austin Peay defensive standout Juantarius Bryant received a text message he thought would change his life.
“When [Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees] told me they have a spot for me at the rookie minicamp, my heart just started racing,” Bryant, who went undrafted in 2020, told the Tennessee-based university student newspaper at the time. “It made me start thinking ‘hard work really does pay off.’ ”
But when Bryant arrived at the rookie camp last week, the defensive back was turned away.
It was only then Bryant realized he was duped by someone with an Atlanta area code posing as the Falcons’ assistant.
“It’s most definitely one of the most embarrassing things that has ever happened to me and a very humbling experience,” Bryant said in a statement posted Saturday to Twitter, adding that he apologized to the Falcons for the mixup.
“It’s been a rough few days. … I do not know or understand why this has happened, but I do know that everything happens for a reason,” Bryant said.
Bryant’s agent, Corey Alexander, said he talked with the Falcons and that “all parties involved are frustrated but [Bryant] will get his opportunity soon.”
A Nashville, Tenn. native, Bryant walked on the Austin Peay football team in 2015 and helped turn around the program. He earned a scholarship before his redshirt junior season and was voted captain his senior year. Bryant was named to the first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference his final season after making 108 tackles for the 11-4 Governors.
But his professional prospects took a hit last spring when the program’s pro day, used to showcase potential draft picks to NFL teams, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He spent this past year training in hopes of earning an NFL offer.
“Yes, this was heartbreaking for me,” Bryant said of the tryout hoax. “But just another stepping stone that I am not afraid to admit or overcome.”