Now healthy, Northwestern’s Corbin Bryant excels

Jonah Rosenblum

Before his final year of high school, senior defensive tackle Corbin Bryant had last played competitive football in third grade.

Back in those peewee days, Bryant, now 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, played cornerback. In high school, he adjusted to his bigger frame and the defensive front seven quickly, establishing himself as the No. 27-ranked prospect in Illinois, according to

“I just wanted to play because it looked fun,” Bryant said. “I just started to go out there and use my athleticism, and I was able to come here (to Northwestern).”

The college game didn’t come quite so easy to Bryant.

“My senior year (of high school) … I was faster and stronger than everybody,” Bryant said. “High school was pretty easy, but in college there are a lot more things to adjust to.”

After playing in nine games as a redshirt freshman in 2007, he injured his knee late in his sophomore season against Michigan. He came back and started every game the next year, but he said he still didn’t feel quite right.

“It took me about eight months to really feel good again,” Bryant said. “After six months, I started playing again, but it was still kind of tender. It took a while to get my confidence back.”

Now, he’s back at 100 percent. After a quiet first game at Vanderbilt, Bryant has filled the stat sheet. He has six tackles so far, four and a half of which have resulted in negative yardage. Bryant also has a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.

“Corbin, two years ago, played excellent football and then got hurt,” defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said. “Now he feels the best he’s felt, and he’s playing much stronger and quicker and has been very active.”

Bryant’s influence goes beyond statistics, according to Hankwitz and his teammates.

“He’s one of those guys that brings so much energy out onto the field,” junior defensive end Kevin Watt said. “He’s not just playing well. He’s helping everyone around him play better just because he comes out there with a physical, ready-to-work attitude every day.”

With Bryant’s help, NU’s defensive line has bounced back from the departure of former first-team, All-Big Ten defensive end Corey Wootton.

“It’s nothing different, really,” Bryant said. “We’ve been having an even better pass-rush than we’ve ever had here, and that’s a tribute to the hard work we put in this offseason.”

Bryant, a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, already has his bachelor’s degree in learning and organizational change and is now pursuing graduate studies in sports management.

While he is looking forward to a career in marketing or management if the professional game doesn’t pan out, he has some unfinished business in college – ending NU’s 61-year bowl win drought. But first, he said, the Wildcats must take care of Minnesota.

“Right now, we’re just focused on winning one game at a time,” Bryant said. “We’ll worry about the bowl game later when it comes.”

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