Remembering former Falcons standout Warren Bryant

(AJC)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

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(AJC)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Former Falcons offensive lineman Warren Bryant, who played with the team from 1977 to 1984, died Oct. 10 in Smyrna.

Bryant, 65, was the sixth player taken overall in the 1977 draft out of the University of Kentucky, where he was an All-American. He held a degree in special education from Kentucky.

“I enjoyed my years in the NFL, but my passion was working with the disabled,” Bryant was quoted in his obituary.

Bryant was also involved with the Youth Mentoring Program for Cobb County Community Service Board of Georgia for more than 20 years.

In 1978, Bryant was on the first Falcons team to reach the NFL playoffs. He played for former Falcons coach Leeman Bennett, who guided the Falcons from 1977 to 1982.

“He played great for us,” Bennett told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “He did a good job. He ended up being a good pass protector. He played right tackle and played it the way it should be played.”

He was deemed the Falcons’ offensive lineman of the year in 1980. He played in 104 NFL games and made 94 starts.

“He was a gentle giant off the field and was a good guy on the right side,” Bennett said. “He didn’t have a lot of foot quickness, but he played his position well.”

Jerry Rhea was the Falcons’ athletic trainer from 1969-94.

“He was a sweet, sweet man,” Rhea said. “He was a big man. He was really a quiet guy, I thought. I loved him. He was nice to be around.”

He was one of the more popular teammates.

“Everybody in the clubhouse loved him,” Rhea said. “He was just a big loveable guy. He was easy to mess with. You could joke with him. He’d take a joke and give a joke.

“He was just a big ‘ol loveable Bear that would knock your (expletive) off.”

Bryant helped lead Kentucky to a share of the 1976 SEC championship. Bryant, of Miami, Fla., played for the Wildcats from 1973-76 under coach Fran Curci.

As a senior, he helped the Wildcats to a 9-3 record and share of the SEC title.

“Warren was one of the greatest players in the history of Kentucky football,” Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart said in a school press release. “His legacy will continue, as he set a standard for offensive line play at UK. He was loved by his teammates, not only for his performance on the field, but also for his personality off the field. Our prayers and condolences are with his family and friends.”

Having been described as a gentle giant, Bryant also was known by the name “Clyde” during his days at Kentucky.

“Warren was the first big recruit we got,” said Curci, Kentucky’s head coach from 1973-81, in the school’s press release. “After we got Warren, everybody else fell in behind him. Everyone respected Warren – he was sensational as a player and also a gentleman, fun to be around.”

Bryant earned a spot on the NFL All-Rookie Team in 1977. He finished his career with the Los Angeles Raiders during the ‘84 season.

Bryant is a member of the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame and retired jersey honoree, he represented Kentucky in the 2005 class of the Legends of SEC Football. He was named to the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

In lieu of flowers, supporters are asked to make donations to Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta, 461 Manget St. SE, Marietta, GA 30060. The Memorial Celebration will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday in Murray Brothers’ Cascade Chapel.

There will be limited seating and masks are required.

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