Kentucky Football is mourning one of the stars of the 1976 SEC Championship season. Former All-American offensive tackle Warren Bryant passed away Monday in Smyrna, Ga. He was 65 years old.
Bryant played for Kentucky from 1973-76 under Fran Curci. In his senior season, he helped lead the Wildcats to a 9-3 record and a share of the Southeastern Conference championship. The ’76 season included wins against No. 20 Penn State, No. 16 LSU, No. 15 Florida, and was capped with a 21-0 win over No. 19 North Carolina in the Peach Bowl.
During his career, Bryant was named first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. He is the only Wildcat to win the coveted Jacobs Award as the most outstanding blocker in the SEC. He was a three-year first-team All-SEC selection by both The Associated Press and United Press International and was named to the Lakeland Ledger 25-year All-SEC team, covering the years 1961-85. In 1990, Bryant was chosen for the All-Time Kentucky Teams selected by the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“Warren was one of the greatest players in the history of Kentucky football,” said UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart. “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.”
“Clyde” the Gentle Giant
In its remembrance of Bryant, UK shared some glimpses into his personality. When the 6’6′, 240 lbs. freshman arrived in Lexington from Miami, Fl. in 1973, his teammates marveled at his size. One player exclaimed, “You look like one of those big Clydesdales!” From then on, Bryant was known as “Clyde.” He was described by his teammates as a gentle giant.
“Warren was the first big recruit we got,” said Fran Curci, head coach of the Wildcats from 1973-81. “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.”
Once his Kentucky career was complete, Bryant was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round (No. 6 overall selection) of the 1977 NFL Draft and earned a spot on the NFL All-Rookie Team. He played for the Falcons from 1977-84, helping the team to the first playoff berth in franchise history (1978), before finishing his career with the Los Angeles Raiders during the ’84 season.
Bryant was one of 88 athletes inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 2005. He represented UK in the 2005 class of the Legends of SEC Football and is one of 45 Kentucky football players to have their jerseys retired. He was named to the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. Funeral arrangements are pending.