NOTRE DAME — The noise followed Greg Bryant through Notre Dame's campus and trickled onto the social media sphere.
He's transferring, it said. He's overrated. He's not happy here. He's not meeting the hype.
But the noise couldn't penetrate the protective walls of the practice field. There, Bryant could focus on returning to the game he loved, where nothing else mattered but the ball and the turf and the other 21 players on the field.
Returning to practice in December was a sort of therapy for Bryant, who only had three carries in two games before a knee injury sidelined him for the season. But as soon as he got back on the field, he felt right back at home.
"Just the success I had in practice, just going against the first team defense and basically having success against first team defense," he said. "I thought, 'Alright this is the same game as it was in high school. It's no different.'"
Bryant arrived on Notre Dame's campus in 2013 with a loaded résumé and even loftier expectations. But the five-star running back out of Delray Beach, Fla., was hit with a reality as bitter as South Bend weather.
"When I first got here, basically Notre Dame humbled me," he said. "When I first got here I thought I was going to come in and just jump right in the mix right away. But it didn't happen like that. My dad told me when adversity hits ... I'm just so hungry right now, it's crazy."
Bryant logged two carries against Temple and another against Purdue before his knee tendinitis flared up to the point of requiring surgery. While Bryant watched from the sidelines, classmate Tarean Folston surged in the second half of the season alongside then-junior Cam McDaniel.
"I love football. I missed it," Bryant said. "That was the hardest part of my life, not playing. I haven't scored a touchdown in a whole year. I haven't done that in my whole life."
Bryant entered the spring completely healthy and expected to compete with Folston and McDaniel right away. Although he realizes the offense is built for two or more running backs to share the duties, he's relentless in his quest to be the undisputed number one tailback.
"If I see Tarean get a 10-yard gain, I want to get a 20-yard gain," he said. "If Cam gets a 20-yard gain, I want a 30-yard gain."
Bryant has worked into the three-man rotation with Folston in McDaniel in the first weeks of the spring. Early reports from both head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock revolve around the word "powerful" when describing Bryant.
"I know our guys don't like to tackle him," Kelly said. "He's physical, he's got all the tools to be a premier running back."
But what they call power, Bryant might call anger. Anger towards the doubters. Anger toward the year off from football. Anger toward his own early disappointments.
"It's like all the aggression I had not playing last year," he said. "When I get the ball now and I'm in the hole, I don't want to go back to not playing so that power shows when I'm practicing."
"All that stuff, all of that negativity just gave me the hunger now not to go back that way and come and make a big impact and show people what I can do. Honestly, people are sleeping on me right now. I'm hungry."