JB

Former Austin Peay safety Juantarius Bryant won't start his NFL journey just yet for reasons beyond his control.  

Over 2021 NFL Draft weekend, Bryant thought he'd been invited to the Atlanta Falcons' rookie minicamp to tryout for the team by Atlanta defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who was with the Titans when Bryant was in college. 

Though, once Bryant arrived to Flowery Branch, he learned the horrible reality of the situation: his draft weekend call had been forged and he had been scammed into thinking it was true. 

"Someone contacted me from a 404 area code pretending to [Pees]," Bryant wrote in a Twitter message sharing his thoughts on the terrible situation. "I did not realize it was not a legit opportunity until I traveled to the facility for rookie minicamp check-in on Wednesday, May 12.

"It's definitely one of the most embarrassing things that has ever happened to me and a very humbling experience." 

Bryant is a 2020 graduate of Austin Peay. He had 53 tackles in his redshirt senior year. A Maplewood High grad, he was first-team All-OVC in 2019. 

If you're wondering why didn't Atlanta let him stay and compete, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explained the Falcons' perspective on the situation. 

"The Falcons felt bad for the player, but did not want to comment on the situation," Ledbetter wrote in a story. 

"In years past, the Falcons probably would have had a scout work the player out and gave him some gear. But the league mandated that teams only have five tryout players this season because of pandemic protocols."

Bryant says he's still not giving up on his dream to play in the NFL despite this unfortunate setback. 

"I do not know or understand why this has happened, but I do know that everything happens for a reason," Bryant said in his post. "Yes, this was heartbreaking for me, but just another stepping stone that I am not afraid to admit or overcome. At the end of the day this will not make or break me. 

"I will still continue to fight for my dreams because I know it's what I really want. I'm still striving, and still in the best shape of my life. When the opportunity presents itself, I will be ready."