During a recent phone interview, Bleacher Report spoke in-depth with Kawon Bryant, one of the nation's leading rushers. He explained what it's been like to challenge state records and emerge as a college prospect.
Kawon Bryant has spent his junior football season slicing and dicing defenses, compiling statistics typically seen on a career stat sheet. The North Oconee High School (Bogart, Ga.) running back hopes his stunning success translates into expanded opportunities as a collegiate prospect.
Despite varied measurements listed on recruiting services, Bryant tell us he currently stands at 5'10", 190 pounds. That's the kind of size collegiate coaching staffs covet.
The playmaker has posted numbers that necessitate a second look. Through nine games this season, Bryant has 2,318 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns on 230 carries, according to MaxPreps.
"The numbers are pretty crazy," Bryant said. "It blows my mind."
He has that in common with the rest of the Georgia football community.
A four-touchdown effort on Nov. 2 against Oconee County earned Bryant a spot in the record books. He surpassed the Athens-area single-season record of 36 scores, a mark that stood since 1999, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.
Per the Banner-Herald, the all-time state record for single-season rushing touchdowns belongs to Washaun Ealey, who scored 58 times in 2007 for Emanuel County Institute.
"We knew this year was my year, and we put in the work as a team to make it happen," Bryant said.
Sure, he was coming off a strong sophomore season (1,174 yards and 15 touchdowns) and running behind an offensive line that features three seniors and two juniors, but did anyone really see this production explosion coming?
Frank Gray, Bryant's adoptive father, had an early idea that something special was brewing.
“We kind of knew this was coming," Gray said. "He's put in so much work and I think we realized it was going to be a special year. Nothing is guaranteed, but we were cautiously optimistic."
It didn't take long for Bryant to validate heightened expectations this season. He rushed for more than 300 yards twice in September and scored 21 touchdowns before the month ended.
An eight-touchdown outburst against Jackson County on Sept. 27 vaulted him into a second-place tie for single-game rushing touchdowns in state history. Bryant scored five times in the fourth quarter, leading the team to a 62-27 victory.
His dominant play has persisted through October and into November, as the Titans have tallied a 7-2 record.
"It's been like walking on cloud nine," Gray said.
Gray welcomed Bryant into the family when the promising athlete was 10 years old. Kawon plays alongside his adoptive brother, Jamie, on a playoff-bound North Oconee squad.
Bryant credits a stable home life for his success.
"It’s a blessing from God," he said. "I was struggling when I was younger. I'm so happy that I’m at this point in my life. It means so much and I‘m so thankful."
The family enjoyed a busy month on the football field beyond Titans action. Bryant journeyed to Clemson, Florida State and nearby Georgia during a whirlwind October tour of campuses.
He is still searching for his first scholarship offer, but believes that development is quickly approaching.
"I feel really good about the whole process," Bryant said. "I’m ready to take the next step with some of these programs. I'm just hoping for the best and putting in effort."
Bryant said Clemson running back coach Tony Elliott emails him before every game.
"He always wishes me luck," Bryant said "We talk a lot. I really like Clemson."
He watched Florida State dismantle Clemson in October. Bryant's relationship with the Seminoles dates back to this summer, when he attended camp in Tallahassee.
"FSU told me I was the best running back at their camp," Bryant said.
He was clocked at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash during the camp.
Bryant said he'd like to hear more from Florida State in the future. He also identified the Seminoles' longtime rival as a program that peaks his interest.
"I definitely want to hear from the Florida Gators," Bryant said. "I really like how they run their offense."
He's also high on the nearby Bulldogs. The Georgia campus is just 10 minutes away from Bryant's hometown.
"I've been to a lot of Georgia games," Bryant said. "I think the campus and program are great. I’m wishing them well the rest of this season and hope to be in contact with their coaches."
It's hard to imagine Bryant must wait much longer for offers to turn up. A headline-stealing season has thrust him into Georgia Player of the Year consideration and his career numbers are largely unrivaled among high school juniors.
In less than three full seasons of action, Bryant has rushed for 4,518 yards and 68 touchdowns, while averaging more than nine yards per carry.
The running back's resume is built. Now it's time to wait for a response.
"I'm willing to do whatever a team needs from me," Bryant said. "I'm going to continue working hard and improve as a runner. I'm focused on getting better and getting a chance at the college level. I think it's coming."
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