Bryant proud to help 'Hoos with 'Mad Hatters'

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Dre Bryant might not be a household name among UVA football fans -- but the Cavaliers' starting quarterback knows who Bryant is.

"He goes hard," said Bryce Perkins. "He got me one of the plays. He was on the edge on a read option. He kind of shuffled in and bounced back kind of hard. He redirected really fast."

Bryant is in his third year as a walk-on defensive player with the Wahoos from Charlottesville High School. An outside linebacker his first two seasons, Bryant has spent this season as a defensive lineman with the "Mad Hatters" -- UVA's scout team defense.

"My main responsibility is just to make sure I'm giving the starting offense the best look I can," Bryant explained.

"Dre has definitely embraced that role," said Jackson Matteo, the UVA graduate assistant coach tasked with running the "Mad Hatters" this season. "You never see him complaining. You never see him walking around. You never see him taking plays off. He hustles, he plays hard and he's talented."

"He plays hard. Every day he comes in ready to work," said Perkins. "He's a great teammate."

Bryant's hard work has yet to get him on the field for a game. That's still his ultimate goal. But that work has earned Bryant two jersey numbers.

After redshirting in 2016, Bryant picked No. 50 after earning a number midway through last season. This preseason, he chose No. 59.

"I mean, it's always pretty redeeming to earn you number with this program," Bryant said. "Because it's never an easy process, especially when you're a walk-on. You have to really out-work a lot of scholarship guys."

Bryant's freshman season at Virginia was also Bronco Mendenhall's first as head coach of the Cavaliers. As a Charlottesville native, Bryant also knows some UVA football history -- especially the program's recent history.

Bryant made the trip to Annapolis for last year's Military Bowl loss to Navy.
He's now in Charlotte with the Wahoos as they prepare for Saturday's game against South Carolina in the Belk Bowl. And Bryant knows knows the Cavaliers can't take these back-to-back bowl appearances for granted.

"I'd admit that it was expected, but at the same time it was still a huge accomplishment," Bryant said of the Cavaliers' seven-win regular season. "Just to be a part of this, and to be able to look back on it and say that I helped change the program that I grew up watching, is just huge."

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