ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions wanted to get bigger in this draft. They wanted to get tougher in this draft.
And they got both in Clemson defensive lineman Austin Bryant, their fourth-round pick.
Get this: Bryant tore his pectoral muscle in a win against Louisville on the first Saturday in November. Tore it right off the bone, and only surgery would fix it. Instead, he played on.
He played with one pec the very next week, and the week after that. He didn’t miss a single game. He played in all 15 of them, actually, and was crowned defensive MVP of the national semifinals. Clemson went on to win the national championship.
“I thought about (having surgery right away), but at the end of the day, I knew what I came back to school to do,” Bryant said by phone after Detroit took him 117th overall. “And that was not only to get my degree, but play and win the national championship. That’s what I wanted to do. If I can walk, I was going to be out on that field with my teammates just because that’s how much I love those guys.
“I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I knew that I could’ve went out there and played, and I didn’t do so. I’m very glad I made the decision to play, even though it may have had its consequences (in the draft process). It’s well worth it, and I ended up in the right place.”
In an era when more players are skipping bowl games to preserve their NFL stock, Bryant’s team-first attitude stands out. So does his toughness. The week after he tore his pec off the bone, he racked up 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and a season-high six tackles in a blowout win against Boston College. They allowed seven points.
Bryant shredded Notre Dame’s talented offensive line for three tackles for loss and two sacks in a blowout win in the national semifinals, and was named the game’s defensive MVP. He added another three tackles — one for loss — in the win against Alabama in the national championship.