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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 5 years ago

Father Lopez football player Justin Bryant signs with Ave Maria

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In his senior season, Justin Bryant accumulated 1,438 all-purpose yards.

BY ANDREW O'BRIEN | SPORTS EDITOR

DAYTONA BEACH — Justin Bryant might not be the biggest player on the football field, but his game says otherwise. Just ask his coach.

“(Justin) is one of the toughest kids I have ever coached,” Father Lopez coach Jason Dunlap said.

Bryant, a senior at Father Lopez High School, signed his National Letter of Intent Feb. 13 to play football at Ave Maria University, in Ave Maria.

The Gyrenes are a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II, and the football team competes as an independent. (The football team isn’t a member of a conference.)

As a senior, Bryant, who played fullback and linebacker for the Green Wave, carried the ball 122 times for 878 yards and eight touchdowns. He added more than 500 yards on kick and punt returns and a touchdown.

He also was a staple on defense, racking up 36 tackles.

At 5 feet, 11 inches, 190 pounds, Bryant knows he doesn't look like a traditional fullback or linebacker. He doesn’t care, though.

“I leave my heart on the field,” Bryant said. “Yeah, I’ve got some moves, but I would rather run you over. ... I won’t shy away from contact no matter the size of my opponent. Size doesn’t matter when you have the heart of a lion.”

Ave Maria recruited him as both a fullback and a linebacker.

Bryant led Father Lopez back to the state playoffs for the first time since 2005.

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