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Behind the Facemask: Matt Bryant

Posted Nov 22, 2013

Falcons kicker Matt Bryant explains why he squeezes his 10.5-inch foot into a size 9 kicking shoe during games in this week's Behind the Facemask

Frank Kleha: Before landing in the NFL you had a few interesting jobs?

Matt Bryant: I worked at a pawn shop and as a personal trainer.

FK: What’s the oddest thing you saw at the pawn shop?

MB: The thing about the pawn shop was every time you thought you saw it all, you’d go back into work the next day and say, ‘Oh now I’ve seen it all’.

FK: How did you end up there?

MB: The guy who owned it was my T-Ball (baseball) coach so I grew up with his son.  It seemed like for all my buddies that was their high school job. So once I graduated from college my best friend worked his way up and was the manager.

FK: How did you become a personal trainer?

MB: I moved away to go live on my own and another friend of mine was a trainer there. It was at a nice club in downtown Houston (Texas). That was when I was really into fitness (smiling).

FK: You were a very good baseball player growing up. What was your biggest accomplishment on the diamond?

MB: I love the game. One of my claims to fame was in four consecutive at-bats I had home runs in a (high school) game. And the fifth time (up) I got plunked.

FK: Do you ever want to play pro baseball?

MB: Oh, yeah. I was all-state (of Texas) my junior year at catcher. Both of my brothers went to college to play baseball. One of the scouts from the Cincinnati Reds, going into my senior year, told me ‘don’t be surprised if we draft you.’  But I hurt my knee playing linebacker in football and so when people were really looking I couldn’t perform. I only had one leg really.

FK: So who were some of your favorite athletes as a kid?

MB: The ones who stand out in my mind was Dale Murphy of the Braves and John Riggins of the Redskins. The 49ers were kind of like my team growing up so Tom Rathman also. When I think of guys like Riggins and Rathman I think of run-you-over type running backs.

FK: How did the whole “Alligator Whisperer” thing get started with you and alligators?

MB: Sitting around one day watching National Geographic and they talked about baby alligators and this certain sound they make. It got to where I could mimic their sound. Then, one day I was walking outside our house (in Florida) near a retention pond and there was an alligator and I did that sound and it came to me. And I was like, ‘hey it works’.

FK:  When do you use this special skill you’ve mastered?

MB: Whenever I go somewhere I always try to play around with it. One time I was in South Carolina and I was playing golf with a father and son from Michigan that were down there on vacation. And I said, ‘hey I wanna show you something.’ I did the call and a little gator was in the reeds and kind of jetted out. They went running and were like ‘what is that guy doing’? (laughing)

FK: You have a ritual where you drink a chocolate milkshake before every game…how did that begin?

MB: It started the first week I came into the League in 2002. Because I’m a big fan of chocolate shakes I went into the team snack on Saturday night (at the hotel before my first game) and over in the corner was the ice cream section. So you think to yourself… ‘milkshakes’!  I was like there it is, free milkshakes, night before the game get a milkshake.

FK: Your foot size is 10.5, but you squeeze into a size 9 shoe to kick. Why is that?

MB: If you think about it if you are going to hit something or punch something you are going to take your hand and close it up into a fist. Obviously, your first is a lot smaller than your open hand. So the theory of it is you bring your foot almost like into a fist for the impact.

FK: How did that start?

MB: Actually, I was a barefooted kicker up until I graduated from college. The only reason I put on a shoe was I didn’t want any excuses for anybody to not give me a shot (at pro football). So if a northern team needed a kicker I didn’t want them to say, ‘well, he’s barefooted, he can’t kick outdoors.’ Even though I knew I could, I didn’t want to give anybody anything. I taught myself how to kick with a shoe. I don’t know why it did but it took off about 8-10 yards on my kicks. At first, I was trying to do something to help myself, but in a way, I was hurting myself. It’s all worked out though.

FK: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve seen in your football career?

MB:  I remember one of our quarterbacks in Tampa, Bruce Gradkowski, would throw up before every game. You would be walking around and hear him in the background and I would laugh because you knew when it was getting close to game time.

FK: First car?

MB: A 1982 Toyota Supra.

FK: Hollywood crush growing up?

MB: Elisabeth Shue (from Karate Kid).  

FK: What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

MB: I appreciate art.  I appreciate people’s imaginative ideas. Also, I have a 240 or 250 gallon tank full of fish. To me, it’s almost another piece of art. It’s very therapeutic. I could sit in front of that fish tank for a while. I don’t know what it is. Something about it is very relaxing. The other day we took our two-year old twins to the Georgia Aquarium and I know I enjoyed it as much or more than the kids. We are building our retirement home and I’m putting in a 1,000 gallon tank.

FK: Favorite fish in your tank?

MB: I’ve learned not to get too attached because fish die. But I do have a huge red bubble tip anemone and two ice clown fish. And those are pretty neat to see. 

FK: What’s one thing you are good at that most people struggle with?

MB: Obviously, with my job I have to be able to, for a couple of seconds in time, to slow it down, and perform under a great deal of pressure, sometimes more than others. And a lot of people may not be able to handle that. There‘s a lot of players out there that are talented, but necessarily can’t handle the moment.

FK: If you weren’t playing football, what would you be doing?

MB: I think I would be playing pro baseball. I would enjoy playing golf, but my skill-set would lean more towards baseball.

FK: Other than sports, what did you want to do for a living?

MB: My plan was to go into federal law enforcement after college, whether it was a Marshall or DEA, something along those lines. Growing up my dad, my brothers, my cousins were all in law enforcement, in some form or fashion.

FK: What’s your biggest pet peeve?

MB: The ignorance of people. It’s too easy to say something without any meaning. That bothers me.

FK: What is one thing you haven’t done yet that you’ve always wanted to do?

MB: I want to get my scuba certification and go scuba diving.


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