By Hunter Jones
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
HOOVER — When Kelly Bryant first entered the transfer portal, Missouri was the first school to contact him. One of the biggest influences in the former Clemson quarterback’s decision, however, was offensive coordinator Derek Dooley.
“He loved the things he saw from a passing standpoint and also what I can do with my legs,” Bryant said. “He is going to cater to you, and just knowing that, I have that in my pocket where I can go into a meeting and say ‘I like this’ or ‘I don’t like this, so let’s do this’. That’s just been one of the biggest things that I like about playing for him so far.”
Within his first month at Missouri, head coach Barry Odom called an impromptu team meeting to tell them that they would receive a bowl ban for this season and that if anyone wanted to transfer, nobody would look at them differently.
“Hearing Coach Odom deliver the message, he just laid it out there for us. He said they were going to try to appeal it, and that it is going to be a process,” Bryant said. “Just hearing that, I was like, first and foremost, I don’t want to leave. This is where I want to be. I made the decision, so I am not going to turn back on it now.”
The decision to stick it out in spite of the bowl ban gained respect from most of the seniors especially.
“My first impression was we got this high-profile guy, he’s going to bring us some press at Missouri because I’ve heard nothing but good things about him,” said senior linebacker Cale Garrett. “What won me over and a lot of the seniors, after the senior meeting where we found out about the bowl ban, he stood up in front of us after that and said, ‘I’m here. I know everybody has the choice to leave but I’m staying here and I want to win. I know we have something special.’ And that was the moment where I was like, ‘I respect you a lot.’ That’s when he won me over, I think.”
Bryant was a backup at Clemson his first two seasons and earned the starting job as a junior. He played four games in 2018 but gave way to true freshman Trevor Lawrence and sat out the rest of the season.
“This is where I want to be,” Bryant said. “I made the decision, so I am not going to turn back on it now.”