Wide receiver Ventell Bryant was not highly recruited coming out of Thomas Jefferson High School in Tampa, Florida. He ended up at Temple University, where he had a respectable career with 177 receptions for 2,444 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a senior, Bryant had 51 catches for 691 yards and three scores.
At 6-3 and 209 pounds, Bryant, who finished as Temple’s all-time leading receiver, was not invited to the NFL Combine. He wasn’t invited to the East-West Shrine Game, and he wasn’t invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. At his pro day, Bryant turned in a 4.56 time in the 40 and went 34.5 inches in the vertical jump.
Bryant went undrafted, and didn’t even earn an immediate call as a free agent. But he never gave up, and eventually signed with the Bengals after impressing at a tryout.
“You guys do not understand the journey I went through to get to this point,” Bryant told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But I stayed the course and it finally paid off.”
Bryant joined the club as not much more than a camp body, but has quietly thrust himself into the conversation for the final receiving spot on the 53-man roster.
Going into the final preseason game of the year Thursday night, Bryant had recorded five receptions for 71 yards, with a long of 34 yards. But, in his final opportunity to shine, Bryant made the most of his opportunities.
Against the Colts, Bryant came through with nine receptions for 83 yards, with a long of 26 yards. He even came back onto the field after an apparent injury. But he also dropped one pass, and showed his inexperience when he allowed himself to get pushed out of the end zone on a potentially catchable pass in the fourth quarter as the Bengals were fighting to come back from a 13-3 deficit.
“Today, I just wanted to come out and showcase everything I had and leave everything on the table,” Bryant said after the game.
Unfortunately for Bryant, Core was nearly as impressive. Core finished with four catches for 68 yards and had a leaping 39-yard grab in the first quarter.
“To see those guys go out there and make plays was really encouraging,” said head coach Zac Taylor after the game. “And we’re really excited for all of those guys.”
Bryant’s performance did catch the eye of at least one other prominent member of the Bengals’ hierarchy.
“It’s good to see him producing today,” Duke Tobin, Cincinnati’s Director of Player Personnel, said at halftime.
Cincinnati will probably keep seven receivers on the 53-man roster. A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Damion Willis and Alex Erickson are in. Auden Tate did not play Thursday night, which means he is probably in, as well. That means that the final spot comes down to Bryant, Core and Josh Malone, who was unimpressive Thursday night and is probably out of the mix.
Now, we wait.