After growing up in Dallas, Marquel Bryant was ready for a change of pace.
The redshirt-sophomore, now a starter along Kansas State’s defensive line, was looking to get out of the big city. He chose Manhattan, trading away a metro-area population of 1.1 million for the small-town charm of Kansas, if you consider the Little Apple small, anyway.
“I didn’t want to go to a school that was in a big city,” Bryant said. “I wanted something kind of mellow, more down to earth. I feel like I would’ve been able to lose my focus on school and classes.
“I wanted to be able to come to school and focus on my books more and get away from everything else — the party life, and everything like that.”
After recording just three tackles a year ago, Bryant is still adjusting to life as a full-time player for the Wildcats. He’s the starter at end opposite Ryan Mueller and has recorded three tackles in four games this season.
Bryant admitted his first game at home this season was nerve racking.
“There was so much going on, I was so nervous because it’s my first year actually starting,” he said. “But after a while, as the year goes on, everything slows down and you’re a little more comfortable out there with the guys you’re with.”
Facing Baylor on Saturday will be perhaps the defensive line’s toughest challenge yet. If the K-State secondary is going to have a chance against the talented Baylor skill players, they’ll need help up front in the form of a solid pass rush.
“We’re going to have to keep the quarterback in the pocket and keep Seastrunk in the backfield,” Bryant said. “We have to really come at these guys and keep them from making the real big plays.”
Being from Dallas, the Bears recruited Bryant, but he chose the Wildcats instead. While the size of Waco, Texas, fit the bill, the sophomore had other recruiting criteria as well.
Bryant’s other sticking point came down to what position he would play. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds out of high school, Bryant attracted more attention as a potential linebacker than at his natural position of defensive end. The sophomore said K-State was one of only a handful of schools interested in him as a lineman.
“Most schools wanted me as a linebacker — I’ve never played linebacker,” Bryant said. “(K-State) said I’d be playing Bandit, which is a defensive end/linebacker, but I didn’t mind that.
“Then when I came here for my official visit, there was a family environment. Everybody was loving and caring, people kept coming up and talking to me and I love that type of environment. That’s how we are down in Texas, me and my family, we’re the same — we have that hospitality.”
Bryant said even in high school he often gave up size to opposing offensive linemen, but he grew to love the challenge.
“I love being inside there and going head-to-head,” he said. “I’ve always been one of the smaller guys, but I’ve always been a guy that loved contact. At this point, I don’t mind going against a guy that’s bigger than me. I want to see if you can really overpower me, I want to see if you can come at me.
“It’s just a drive for me — I love it. I wouldn’t want to switch positions. I love coming at these big guys and showing them up.”
Teammate Travis Britz said Bryant has done a good job learning the expectations that come along with being a starter.
“He’s starting to understand what it takes to be a starter here,” Britz said. “He’s really stepping into that role as a pash rusher, which he’s starting to do now. I think he’s understanding the defense more and understanding what’s expected of him.”
Even as a relatively young player, Bryant knows he has younger players watching what he does.
“Discipline is a big deal,” Bryant said. “It’s a big deal for me to go out there and do right and dominate on the field, because there are lots of younger guys that just came in that look up to us. I have to play that role and be a big brother, doing the right things and showing these guys what to do.”’