The first thing you notice when you talk with Bryn Renner is that the former North Carolina quarterback and 2014 NFL draft prospect carries himself with the prototypical demeanor one expects from the sport’s spotlight position. Like so many NFL draft prospects, Rennner speaks with a careful balance of humility and confidence—always with unwavering optimism and ambition.
The son of former NFL punter Bill Renner, Bryn has tremendous football knowledge and showed promise throughout his career at UNC, despite a constant carousel of coaches and coordinators, NCAA sanctions, and a surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder for a fracture and detached labrum suffered midway through his senior year. In 32 games started, Renner completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 8,207 yards (averaging 8.2 yards per attempt) with 64 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. His junior season, when playing in a spread offense for the first time in his career, Renner posted his best season, throwing for 3,356 yards, 28 TDs, and only 7 INTs, the fewest in the FBS among eligible QBs.
Renner has since fully recovered from the shoulder injury and was able to fully participate in this year’s NFL Combine, as well as his pro day and other private team visits. Renner also participated in the Manning Passing Academy earlier this year. In a conversation with TDdaily a few weeks before the draft, Renner acknowledged the setback of injuring his shoulder, but remained optimistic that he’ll get his chance to prove himself for an NFL team next year, no matter how that opportunity presents itself. That, and more, below.
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TD Daily: So, Bryn, how are things going? You feeling excited?
Bryn Renner: I’m really excited. Big opportunity coming up here in a couple of a weeks and whether I get drafted or go as a free agent, I’m looking forward to trying to go live the dream and make an NFL team.
TD: I’m sure you’re sick of this question by now but we have to ask—how’s your shoulder doing? You back to full health yet?
BR: Yeah, shoulder’s doing great. I recovered quicker than expected, was able to participate in the combine—I actually played a great round of golf this morning, so that was a big step for me. Recovery time is usually five to six months and I came back in about three and a half; I was able to go out to California and get a lot of great treatment out there and a lot of good training. So I’m feeling great right now—definitely back to full health since recovering from surgery.
TD: What about your mental recovery? It was obviously frustrating for your season to end the way it did.
BR: Absolutely. Any time you have an injury, you don’t want to push anything or do anything that will jeopardize your career. So when I sat down and got the news that my [college] career was going to be over, it put a big chip on my shoulder. You’ve prepared for this your whole career and you have a dream and goal of playing in the NFL, and it put a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to get back to full health and prove to people that I could still play this game and play at a high level. So I think that was my motivation going into it and dealing with the surgery, but also not doing anything to jeopardize that. I had great support from the guys out in California and also back in Chapel Hill so, in that sense, it was very easy for me. Plus, I’m very competitive by nature, so I just wanted to get back out there and prove that I can still throw the football a little bit.
TD: Speaking of chip on your shoulder, you’ve been projected to go everywhere from near the top of the draft all the way down to an undrafted free agent. How do you feel when you read these kind of reports about you?
BR: My whole career, even back in high school, I’ve never really paid attention to rankings or whether they’re saying I could go high in the draft or go as a free agent. I know it’s out there and I know people have different opinions about the way I play the game; but I think the one thing that’s going to hopefully help me is everyone’s going to get an opportunity to play in the pre-season, hopefully, and get an opportunity to show if they can play or not. I’ve always been the guy that wants to get in the film room, that wants to get on the practice field and let the coaches see me and let the coaches make the assessment of whether I can play or not—not any media outlet or anyone on the outside. I have a close circle of friends and family, and those people who have been beside me have made me better on and off the field, and when my opportunity comes I’m going to be ready.
TD: What coaches have you spoken with so far, or what teams have you met with that really stuck out to you and you really hit it off with?
BR: There’s a multitude of teams that have come in—I had a workout with the Dolphins and I’m going to see the Vikings next—and the feedback they’ve given me then and also at the combine has been very positive. Obviously I wish I could have had a better season last year, but I don’t want to look at the past; I want to look forward with my career and hopefully get a fresh start and get a fresh pair of eyes on me. My body has changed—I’m actually fully healthy now. I had some surgeries in college and that’s kind of been my downfall but I think I’m ready for the next step, wherever that may be.
TD: And what kind of feedback specifically have coaches given you?
BR: You know, I’ve always been kind of in between guys. I’ve had three different head coaches since I started at Carolina, three different offensive coordinators, so it’s been tough. I played the spread my last two years and was in the pro style my sophomore year. My most productive year was my junior year and my senior year I kind of fell off a bit. But I had a great summer at the Manning camp and things like that. But they don’t really know who I am yet. I know I’m a pocket passer—obviously—and what I can do to throw the ball. I think my career wasn’t a normal career—I didn’t have the same coach for four years—so I have different circumstances and I think that’s made them look at me a little differently than most.
TD: Do you think that’s an advantage or disadvantage, having played in so many different systems?
BR: I think it’s definitely prepared me. The NFL is a business, and coaches fluctuate almost on a year-to-year basis, as do players, and I think I’ve had an opportunity to learn a lot about the game of football—going through different playbooks and learning on the fly and having to adjust to something I didn’t know very well. I think I proved my junior year that I can play in the spread and my sophomore year I could play in the pro style, and that’s had an effect on how I play the game. Minus my senior year, I was on path to having the most outstanding completion percentage in ACC history and a lot of records that I didn’t reach because I got hurt, and I think it would have helped had I finished my career, but I also think it prepared me for the next level. There’s going to be constant change and fluctuation, so you have to be able to adapt. My junior year we were 8-4—best record in school history—and won an ACC title, but couldn’t do more because we were bowl-banned. I think that opened some people’s eyes that I did have a good year that year. But through all the constant adversity we faced, I kept my play intact and didn’t leave the school and didn’t waver, so I think that also is a plus as well.
TD: Absolutely, and clubs really value those sort of intangibles in a quarterback, perhaps more so than any other position. How else would you describe yourself as a player, not just on the field, but what kind of attitudes you bring to a team?
BR: I think that’s one thing I really have in my corner. I was a backup for two years behind TJ Yates, who’s on the Texans roster right now, and I sat behind him and learned as a back-up and was also a starter for two years; all those factors have really benefited me. But to describe myself: Ultra-competitive. I’m always going to be the first one into the film room and be the leader of a team. I really had to be able to adapt to the different types of coaching systems every year, and I think I’ve been the consistent leader—going through all the things that we went through—for my five years just in the way I carry myself. You’re not going to get a lot of nonsense from me. I’m a coach’s son, so I love the game a ton and my knowledge of the game—I think I’m very knowledgeable about the game and understand that the quarterback position’s biggest goal is to win ball games no matter what. I might not be the flashiest guy in this draft, but I’m going to be the one who could be around the league for ten years because I’m comfortable with being a backup, but I also know that I’m the guy who’s going to push to be a starter. And I do think I can be a starter in this league if I get the opportunity, and I just want to prove that to people.
TD: How excited would you be to rejoin TJ and compete for a starting opportunity over there with the Texans?
BR: Yeah, that’d be a great culmination to where we started. He was my roommate for three years when we were in Carolina, so we’re really great friends and still have a great relationship. I’ve been able to have some great quarterback relationships with guys across this country. I’m just looking for an opportunity to compete, no matter where it is, whether it’s with Houston or a franchise that’s looking for a starter. I’m going to go in there and work my tail off for whatever team decides to take interest in me.
Matt Meier is a TDdaily contributor based in Los Angeles. Photo via USA TODAY Images. See more from our Draft Prep interview series here!