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August 8, 2008Redshirt freshman tight end George Bryan doesn't want to be remembered for one play, but few NC State players boosted their name recognition like he did this spring.
The 6-5, 265-pounder from New Hanover High in Wilmington, N.C., became the hero of the Red-White spring game April 19, catching a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Burke on the last play of the game to help the Red team to a 23-21 victory. Bryan finished with two catches for 37 yards in the game, and he added a combined eight receptions for 100 yards and four touchdowns in the three spring scrimmages.
Bryan joked that he has became more popular around campus, with strangers congratulating him for catching the Hail Mary touchdown. However, he's ready to put the spring game heroics in the past and begin a new chapter of career highlights this fall.
"I'd rather do it in a real game than a spring game, but it was good for it to happen," Bryan said. "It's over with, and I'm not thinking about it anymore."
With starting tight end Anthony Hill rehabbing his knee injury, Bryan and teammate Matt Kushner were able to get the majority of the tight end snaps during the spring, speeding up their learning curves.
"I loved it, and it was awesome that I got some reps in," Bryan said. "I was watching [Matt] Kushner play, and Anthony Hill, too. They are both great guys and know what they are doing. They just teach me, and [tight end] Coach [Jim] Bridge does an awesome job, too."
Scoring touchdowns and making big blocks is why Bryan loves being a tight end.
"I like that tight ends get to do everything - you get to block, and you get to catch and do a lot of stuff an offensive lineman doesn't get to do," Bryan said. "I love catching the ball. That is the best part of being a tight end, catching balls."
Bryan welcomed the many lessons he learned while playing on the scout team last fall and saw how it helped him out during the spring.
"It was probably the best thing for me to get my butt kicked for a while," Bryan said. "Just to get used to it. In high school, I was just bigger than everybody and didn't have to use technique. I didn't have to play fast because there was no need to. When I got here I had to get used to the speed of the game."
There is definitely one aspect of playing on the scout team that Bryan won't miss.
"I won't miss the hot black jerseys that we had to wear," Bryan said. "They were hot and all black, and they were too small."
Bryan usually battled NC State redshirt junior defensive end Willie Young during the scout team sessions.
"Willie Young is a pretty tough guy to block, and that is who I usually had to block," Bryan said. "He is just so fast off the ball. He's pretty strong, too."
Playing on the scout team and against teammates has been fun, but Bryan is ready to hit someone with a different colored jersey on. He's hoping to apply all the lessons he's learned from the past year in real games, starting with his debut against South Carolina on Aug. 28.
"I don't really know what a game is going to be like," Bryan said. "I'm just anxious to know what it is going to be like. I'm sure it won't be like the spring game.
"I'm sure I'll get nervous before the South Carolina game, but I'll be all right. After that first hit, I'll be good."
Bryan is counting down the days until kickoff, but does know how to relax during his down time. He's part of a crew of players who enjoy going fishing in the area.
"I like to go fishing with Keith Willis, J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn," Bryan said. "I go with all the guys I hang out with. We'll play some video games here and there. I know the summer is about to end, but we always have fun. The guys make everything fun."
With a few weeks of practice remaining leading up to the opener, Bryan acknowledges that there is still work to be done.
"I'll have to improve my blocking and getting stronger," Bryan said. "I need to improve on everything."