Former football All-American, Kentucky Hall of Famer Warren Bryant dies at 65

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Warren Bryant, a University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Famer who played eight seasons in the NFL, died on Monday. He was 65.

Bryant, who was living in Smyrna, Ga., was an offensive tackle at UK who lettered from 1974-1976. He was a three-time All-Southeastern Conference First Team selection and was an All-America selection by at least one organization in each of those three seasons; the nation’s coaches and Walter Camp named him to their All-America First Teams in 1976. He that year also won the Jacobs Award, given annually to the SEC’s most outstanding blocker; Bryant is the only Kentucky player who’s earned that distinction.

Bryant was one of only two offensive linemen, along with Sam Ball, who was named to the “All-Time Kentucky Football Teams” selected by both the Lexington Herald-Leader and Louisville Courier-Journal in recognition of the school’s 100 years of playing football in 1990.

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Bryant with the sixth overall pick in the 1976 NFL Draft. He started 94 of his 104 games played in the league. He spent the entirety of his first seven seasons with the Falcons before playing with that organization and the Los Angeles Raiders in 1984, his final year as a pro.

A Miami, Fla., native, Bryant originally committed to the Miami Hurricanes before UK hired away their head coach, Fran Curci.

Kentucky football coach Fran Curci and star offensive tackle Warren Bryant took in a spring practice session together in March 1976. Bryant was a cornerstone of Kentucky’s 1976 SEC co-championship team.
Kentucky football coach Fran Curci and star offensive tackle Warren Bryant took in a spring practice session together in March 1976. Bryant was a cornerstone of Kentucky’s 1976 SEC co-championship team.

“My parents were like, ‘Whoa, that changes everything,’” Bryant told the Herald-Leader’s Mark Story in 2016.

The final UK team on which Bryant played was the second to win outright or earn a share of the SEC title; the 1976 squad was eventually recognized as the league’s co-champion, along with Georgia, in 1978.

“Warren was the first big recruit we got,” Curci said in a UK news release. “After we got Warren, everybody else fell in behind him. Everyone respected Warren — he was sensational as a player and also a gentleman, fun to be around.”

Bryant is one of 45 players whose jersey has been retired by the UK football program. He was one of 88 athletes inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 2005. Bryant was inducted into the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

“Warren was one of the greatest players in the history of Kentucky football,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a news release. “His legacy will continue, as he set a standard for offensive line play at UK. He was loved by his teammates, not only for his performance on the field, but also for his personality off the field. Our prayers and condolences are with his family and friends.”

Funeral services are pending.

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