VooDoo’s Bryant looking to close book with a sack

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Stony Brook's Travis Jankowski slides into second base and LSU shortstop Austin Nola, who holds off throwing to first base, in the third inning Saturday of Game 2. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Stony Brook's Travis Jankowski slides into second base and LSU shortstop Austin Nola, who holds off throwing to first base, in the third inning Saturday of Game 2.

NEW ORLEANS — Dating back to college, James Bryant has lined up at football positions from fullback and tight end to linebacker and nose tackle, not to mention playing special teams. So of course, Bryant has fielded a statistic in just about every category — tackles and touchdowns, receptions and interceptions.

Now, he hopes to tally his first sack in professional football during the VooDoo’s nationally-televised Arena Football League game Saturday night against the Iowa Barnstormers (1-0). Kickoff at the New Orleans Arena is 6 p.m.

The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. The VooDoo are aiming to start 2-0 for the first time since their inaugural season in 2004.

“Since I’ve been out of high school, I haven’t had a sack,” said Bryant, who played college football at the University of Miami and Louisville. “I’m looking to close that chapter in my book. I’ve had every other play you can possibly make from college up to the NFL.”

Bryant is expected to play middle linebacker, where during last week’s season opener, his four tackles provided a defensive spark, helping the VooDoo (1-0) earn a 51-45 overtime win against the Orlando Predators. Bryant also blocked a field goal.

He’s passionate in everything he does, VooDoo coach Pat O’Hara said, which is why he signed him this season. Bryant played with O’Hara in 2010 with the Orlando Predators.

“He’s always going to give you everything,” O’Hara said. “It showed the other night. He’s tenacious. You love that about him. His game inspires his teammates.”

Now, it’s time to collect that sack, which is bad news for Iowa’s J.J. Raterink.

Not that he will make is easy. Last week, Raterink completed 22 of 30 passes for 257 yards and seven touchdowns during Iowa’s 63-41 win against the Chicago Rush. He also ran for another score.

Bryant, like his teammates, hopes a solid showing this season leads to a roster spot on an NFL team. His position would be at defensive end. Since playing college, Bryant has gained about 35 pounds. He was in training camp last summer with the Detroit Lions.

His versatility, though, has been as much an obstacle as a gift. It’s allowed him to understand the game better, therefore perform better on the game’s intermediate levels. It’s also created multiple opportunities. But it’s stopped him from focusing his efforts on one spot on the field, while giving professional football scouts at the highest level fits about where to put him on the field.

“I wish people would just stop worrying about what they’re going to do with him and do exactly what they need to have done to better the team,” Bryant said. “I’ve always been a team guy. I’ve always been able to come into a program and, ‘Coach, what do you need me to do, I’ll do.’ And they don’t really understand that.

“I think some of those coaches are scared.”

Notes

Receiver Donovan Morgan is a game-time decision. Receiver Chris Duvalt (shoulder) is out.