And then—keep in mind his mom's remark that Blaise found Redondo Beach "too rural"—he accepted a scholarship from... Iowa State?
"To be honest, no one else really wanted me," he says with a laugh.
That isn't precisely true, but the two schools he wanted, UCLA and USC, didn't recruit him. "I could have picked some other local school, but I wanted to play against the best, and it was Coach Walden who gave me that opportunity."
When he saw Ames, Iowa, Bryant almost changed his mind. "There was never a problem with football," he recalls. "It was everything else. The humidity was killing me, there was nothing but corn everywhere, bugs everywhere. I hate bugs! It would have been different if I'd had a friend, but there was no one. I called my mom and said, 'I'm out of here.' I was ready to go."
Fortunately for Cyclone fans, Bryant stuck it out, and when he went home for Thanksgiving he made a surprising discovery: "What I was homesick for was gone." The people he had hung out with had drifted away and found new friends. And frigid, snowbound Iowa no longer seemed distant and unwelcome.
No kidding, he even missed his coaches. "Norm Andersen is a great running backs coach," Bryant says, "and Walden is an awesome guy, an innovator. I'm taking credit for a lot of stuff, but Walden's the one doing it."
So Bryant has gotten comfy in Ames, and alums aren't the only ones to cheer that development. "When he leaves for school, it's total devastation for me," says his mother. "But I'm thrilled he's in Iowa. He sees how other people live, and he gets away from all the plastic people who live in Southern California."
Bryant's immediate goal is to get into a bowl game—a seemingly Herculean task, given Iowa State's perennial middle-of-the-Big Eight status, but one he says he and his teammates are up to. He also seeks personal improvement as a pass receiver (he made 20 catches last year for 202 yards, no touchdowns) and as a ball hugger (he lost five fumbles). "There's a fine line between being good and being great," he says. "I don't think I'm a better athlete than anybody else, but I do think I have more heart."
Bryant's career ambitions—he's a telecommunications major—are a little less focused but fully in line with his dad's dreams for him.
"I got a little plan worked up," Bryant says with a sly grin. "I want to be an entrepreneur. I want a beach house. Those goals have nothing to do with football, but football looks like the quickest and easiest way to do that. And if everything goes as planned, I'll buy a house in Iowa, too. Just to hang out."