Future unclear, Bryant will still be honored

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Maybe there’s a shot to play in a bowl game.

Maybe an appeal for a medical redshirt is a possibility.

Or, maybe, Christian Bryant will hobble out of the tunnel Saturday afternoon at the Horseshoe, take in an ovation, make an appearance at midfield as a captain and his career at home for Ohio State will come to a close.

The only thing for certain right now for the senior safety is that he will be honored by the No. 3 Buckeyes before a game that he can’t play in due to a fractured ankle. After that, there remains plenty for Bryant to sort through as he weighs his options for the future, though for the moment, the heart and soul of the Ohio State defense is still preparing as if he’s heading for a sendoff this weekend.

“I would say it will probably be one of those emotional days for me, just knowing it could be a possibility it could be my last game in the Shoe,” Bryant said. “Walking out and just seeing the fans’ reaction to me walking out of the tunnel for the last time in the Shoe, I feel like it’s probably going to be a great experience.”

The outpouring of appreciation isn’t likely to be limited to the fans, particularly since tributes to Bryant have been an almost weekly occurrence from his teammates and coaches since he suffered his injury late in a win over Wisconsin on Sept. 28.

From the moment he went down, Urban Meyer was distraught over the loss of his unquestioned defensive leader, banging a podium during his postgame press conference and continuing to reference the hole Bryant’s absence has left ever since.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier quickly asked for permission to swap his own jersey number for Bryant’s No. 2 to pay homage to the veteran and send a message to the Buckeyes that his spirit was still on the field with them.

And Bryant has remained a vocal presence on the sideline at home games and in meeting rooms during the week, pointing out errors and praising success as the guy who safeties coach Everett Withers said “everybody else still looks to” for leadership.

“You know, he’s still the spark plug on our defense,” Withers said. “I think he has a tremendous value, he provides a lot of glue to our football team.

“He’s a guy that if something isn’t going good, he’s going to let everybody know it isn’t going good and why it isn’t going good. If it’s going good, then he’s going to be a positive role model on that sideline.”

Bryant may have had no problems providing all that help and inspiration away from the field, but obviously what he’d really like to do is get off the sideline and get back to making an impact in pads.

There are currently a couple options for him to do it at Ohio State, though neither is a certainty at this point. Bryant, a true senior, also missed some time as a freshman due to a foot injury and could conceivably file an appeal for a medical hardship that would grant him a fifth year of eligibility if approved. Or, he could get healthy, ditch the crutches and heavy wrap that are currently on his left foot and make a return for a potential BCS bowl appearance.

But either way, there won’t be a resolution by the weekend, and Bryant isn’t going to skip the festivities on senior day.

“[The bowl game] has been brought up a few times, but right now it’s still kind of unsure about what can happen, the progress of where I may be at that point, so it’s still up in the air,” he said. “I heard that a medical redshirt could be a possibility, but I’m really not sure. I think we might go to appeal it, but there’s no way to know what might happen during that process.

“I really haven’t thought about it too much. There are pros and cons with both, with coming back or just going to the [NFL] and training. There are still some things that I need to think about, talk over with my family and the coaches, and we’ll see what happens.”

Worrying about all those maybes won’t do much good for Bryant right now. Instead, he’s looking to make the most of what’s certain to be in front of him -- another trip through the tunnel at Ohio Stadium and one more chance to make a difference for the Buckeyes any way he can.