CORDELE, Ga. — On the morning of National Signing Day, Markaviest Bryant remained a mystery.
A one-time Georgia commit expected to choose LSU, Bryant walked toward an Alabama sign teammates were holding up in a packed Crisp County High gymnasium before taking a turn few expected and deciding on Auburn.
Of course, if you’re a top prospect, the recruiting process isn’t always easy or enjoyable, and that was especially the case for Bryant. Rumors swirled often during what was at times an overwhelmingly negative period.
In the end, however, Gus Malzahn, defensive line coach Rodney Garner and the rest of the Tigers coaching staff were the ones celebrating the commitment of one of the nation’s most promising defensive ends.
About a month before enrolling at Auburn, Bryant told SEC Country he didn’t really make his final decision until the night before his announcement. Even the next morning, Bryant went back and forth. With time running out, the player most fondly call Big Cat followed the directions his heart was telling him. Bryant wanted to play where he felt he was needed. He wanted to be around a family. Perhaps most importantly, Bryant wanted to be closer to his hometown of Cordele, Ga.
Bryant wanted to be an Auburn Tiger.
NEW ERA‼️🔥🦅 pic.twitter.com/UCPBbcwejs
— BigKat Bryant (@BigkatB) June 8, 2017
We look back at Bryant’s recruitment, a process he was thrilled to finish.
The following is a Q&A with Bryant for SEC Country’s Auburn Recruiting Rewind series.
Q: If you could give a junior one piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would it be?
A: My advice, No. 1, I would say just if you feel it in your heart you want to commit, commit. The only reason I didn’t commit is because I was trying to help the guys around me. Before I got to Crisp County High, there weren’t people above me or a big dog that could help me. When a coach came to see me at my high school, they had to see everyone else first. I wanted to start that. I had to start that.
Q: What school came in second? What could they have done better?
A: I’ll say LSU. They couldn’t have done anything better. If it would have been closer I would have went. I just didn’t want to go that far when I could get the same thing two hours away.
Q: What was the most creative thing a school or coach did to get your attention?
A: Auburn kind of broke up the schedule on the official visit. They asked me what I wanted and they kind of just stopped everything they were doing and took me to what I wanted.
Q: What was the biggest rumor about your recruitment that wasn’t true?
A: That my coach and I were both going to Auburn. That was one of the biggest rumors that was out there. And it’s crazy, but hey, that’s what everyone said.
Q: What’s the funniest thing a head coach said to you during the recruiting process?
A: I’ll say Coach [Kirby] Smart. He asked me one time why I had so many girl problems in Cordele. I’m wondering where he got that from (laughs). That was one of the funniest, craziest things I was asked.
Q: Which coach was it the hardest to tell no?
A: Coach O (Ed Orgeron). He was just such a good guy it was hard to say no to.
Q: What school disappointed you the most during your recruitment?
A: Georgia. Coach Smart said this and that about me going to Auburn or LSU. They kind of hurt themselves.
Q: Which school would you have considered more seriously if they’d offered you earlier?
A: Florida State. They kind of came in late in the process. I had a really good relationship with a friend at Florida State. I follow him on social media and we talk every now and then, I think me and him would have been really good together. He’s a good player.
Q: How much negative recruiting did you have to deal with?
A: As a player, when it gets down to the end of it, it can get hectic. It wasn’t something where schools talked about what another school didn’t have or anything. It was hard because sometimes you’re not sure if they’re telling the truth or not.
Q: If you were in charge of the NCAA, what’s the one rule you would change with recruiting?
A: That you could get more gear when you go on an official visit. I always thought about that. If I could get way more gear I’d do it again just to do that. Every time you take a visit you should be able to get gear.