Juantarius Bryant thought he was heading to Georgia this weekend to try out for the Atlanta Falcons during the team's rookie minicamp. When he arrived in Flowery Branch, though, he learned he had been the victim of a hoax instead.
Bryant, a defensive back from Austin Peay, was never actually contacted by the Falcons but instead by someone texting him from an Atlanta area code pretending to be defensive coordinator Dean Pees. So when Bryant arrived at the team's facility Wednesday to get ready for his chance to accomplish an NFL dream, he was instead turned away.
"I do not know or understand why this has happened," Bryant wrote in a Twitter message. "But I do know that everything happens for a reason. Yes, this was heart breaking for me, but just another stepping stone that I am not afraid to admit or overcome.
"At the end of the day, this will not make or break me. I will still continue to fight for my dreams because I know it's what I really want."
It's been a rough few days, but I felt the need to clear the air and get this off my chest. Honestly ready to move on from the situation. pic.twitter.com/yUJELOstZW— Juantarius Bryant (@TheyLoveMyHair_) May 15, 2021
Bryant declined an interview with ESPN when reached Sunday and said he posted something about it publicly on Twitter to let people who have supported him know what was going on because he believed he had a legitimate invite to Falcons camp over the weekend.
"I am ready to move on from the situation and respectfully I do not feel like talking about it over and over again," Bryant said in an email to ESPN. "Yes, whoever did this to me is very wrong, but I'm moving on from the situation and I forgive them for whatever reason they chose to do it.
"I honestly would not like the person who pulled this stunt on me to be publicly humiliated. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."
Bryant, who is from Nashville, Tennessee, initially began his career as a walk-on at Austin Peay and became a first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference defensive back by his senior season in 2019 after making 107 tackles (2.5 for loss). In his career, he played in 43 games for Austin Peay with 242 tackles (8.5 for loss), eight passes defended, three forced fumbles and an interception.
The Falcons declined to comment about the situation to ESPN, but Bryant's agent, Corey Alexander, tweeted that he has been in touch with the Falcons about what happened.
Juan has handled this situation with class. I hate the situation and have talked with representatives at the Atlanta Falcons. All parties involved are frustrated but @TheyLoveMyHair_ will get his opportunity soon. https://t.co/dCDSkx4B8C— Coach Alexander (@coreyralexander) May 16, 2021
"Frustrated with this," Alexander told ESPN on Sunday night. "And I haven't seen it before. Working in football, I have never seen this happen. So I hope that it ends."
On Monday, Bryant was among the players invited to participate in the HUB Football Camp, founded by agent Don Yee. Representatives of NFL teams, including the Falcons, are scheduled to be in attendance at the event which will take place in San Diego on Sunday.
COVID-19 protocols limited the number of tryout players a team could have at its rookie minicamps the past two weeks. Atlanta had five players try out for the team this weekend -- the maximum the team could have -- and signed defensive lineman Olive Sagapolu, who was in training camp with the Detroit Lions last year, on Sunday.