It was a warm 81 degrees with 20 percent humidity back in Casper, Wyoming on Saturday afternoon but back in Gainesville, the mercury crept past 90 on thermometer and the humidity was well over 70 percent. The Florida Gators are still getting acclimated to the heat and working back into football shape, but for the player who has traveled the farthest to play at the University of Florida, the weather wasn’t a concern.
Taven Bryan has a lot more on his plate than just the weather. The kid from Wyoming has seen many things since leaving home and it’s been a lot to take in.
“My first day here two kids fought and the coaches just kind of watched it,” he said. “I was like ‘what the heck did I get myself into?’ But after that, I kind of figured it out.”
Bryan had plenty of time to figure out life off the field last year. A bout with strep throat that eventually caused him to have his tonsils and adenoids removed cost him a chance at playing as a true freshman. His blue-collar work ethic and mentality has paid dividends in the classroom and weight room but it’s between the white lines that Bryan has the most work to do.
“He’s a big old cave man and wants to use all his brute strength,” Florida Gators defensive line coach Chris Rumph said of Bryan. “But he’s athletic for a big guy. His football IQ is really, really low because he hasn’t played a lot of football.”
Bryan played just about every sport you could think of growing up. He ever ran the 100-meter dash, “Yeah. I’m pretty quick,” he insisted with a grin.
He eventually gravitated towards football, enjoying the physical nature of the game and he was pretty good at it. Wyoming isn’t exactly the football hotbed of America but the state has recently produced two NFL Pro Bowlers in tight end Chris Cooley and offensive lineman Zane Beadles — who also hails from Casper.
Bryan’s athletic ability got him the opportunity to earn a scholarship at Florida but it won’t be enough for him to become the player that he wants to be and he knows that.
“I’m working on my football knowledge,” he said. “I’m trying to learn more and be able to understand not only what I’m doing but what people behind me are doing so I can reason things out.”
Bryan has an uncanny mix of size and speed. His physical attributes allowed him to play both ways in high school and overpower other players. In the SEC the physical playing field is leveled and Bryan is working on expanding his knowledge of the game from even the minutest details.
“A big one for me that I don’t pay attention to is down and distance,” Bryan said of something he focuses on. “Focus on that a lot, so, you know, third-and-seven, what are they going to do? What do I need to do?”
Bryan has a real opportunity to earn a starting job on Florida’s defensive line. He just needs to be less of a caveman and more of a thinking man. Hardly the advice you think a defensive lineman would get but it could end up making Bryan’s name one of the few that people can name as famous athletes from the state of Wyoming.
“I don’t know how many great players have come out of the state of Wyoming, but he could be up there,” Rumph said. “If there is one, he could be just as good as those guys once he learns the game.”