"I will be in awe of the experience."
Those are the words Bills defensive tackle and Chicago native Corbin Bryant used to describe his thoughts on playing in his hometown for the first time as a professional Week 1 against the Bears Sunday.
"When we saw the schedule this off-season, I was pretty excited," he said. "But we're focused on winning."
Bryant, who was born and raised in the Windy City, grew up as a basketball player. He actually didn't even play the sport that has now become his profession until his senior year at Morgan Park high school.
Photos of Bills DT Corbin Bryant's professional and collegiate football career.
"I just wanted to try something different," Bryant said of what made him decide to give football a shot. "I wanted to leave high school with no regrets."
In his lone year with the Mustangs, he played both sides of the ball posting 450 yards receiving and seven touchdowns on 28 catches at tight end. On defense he recorded 105 tackles and eight sacks as a defensive end and defensive tackle. Morgan Park went 12-2 that year, won the City championship – dubbed the "Prep Bowl" – but fell short of a state title in the semifinals. The 'Prep Bowl' was the first game Bryant ever played at Soldier Field. This Sunday's game will be the second.
Following the season, Bryant garnered enough stats and attention to rank 27th among recruits in the state of Illinois as well as the attention of Big 10 program Northwestern University. He played as a true freshman for the Wildcats, but unfortunately earned a medical hardship after breaking his leg and was granted an additional year of eligibility.
Over the course of his career at NU, Bryant logged 37 sacks in 47 games as a defensive lineman and received his undergraduate degree in 2010 and graduate degree in 2013.
He signed with Chicago as an undrafted free-agent in 2011, but was released during final cuts. A short time later he landed a job on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad. Bryant didn't have another NFL job until Buffalo signed him to their practice squad in late November of 2012.
Bryant made Buffalo's roster the following year (2013) and appeared in 15 games with a pair of starts to his credit. Now he's part of a second wave of players on Buffalo's defensive line.
Despite not playing football in his youth, Bryant still idolized the Bears and cites Mike Ditka, Walter Payton, and Mike Singletary as inspiration.
"Back in the day I never thought I'd be in this position playing professional ball against my childhood team. It's going to be awesome."
Not only is this a dream for him, but also his family and friends back home. When asked how many tickets he had to get for the Week 1 matchup, he laughed and simply said, "A lot."
And although he is living out a popular childhood fantasy of most Chicago kids playing professional football at Soldier Field, Bryant knows who needs to win come Sunday.
"It's not like I'm going out there for vacation to see my family," said Bryant. "Of course I'll see them after the game. Once we get there, it's all locked in trying to get the first victory of the year."