Bryant finds inspiration in former teammate

Brandon Bryant finished fifth on the team in tackles and led Mississippi State with three interceptions as a redshirt freshman. (Adam Robison/ Daily Journal)

Brandon Bryant finished fifth on the team in tackles and led Mississippi State with three interceptions as a redshirt freshman. (Adam Robison/ Daily Journal)

Brandon Bryant did not play much his freshman or sophomore years at Rosa Fort High School.

Bryant had been shuffled around at several positions and began to grow discouraged by his lack of playing time.

But just when he was tempted to give up, Bryant drew inspiration from the team’s star player – quarterback Benardrick McKinney.

In 2011, McKinney became the first Lions player to sign with a Southeastern Conference program in a decade heading to Mississippi State as a linebacker.

That move gave Bryant all the motivation he needed to stick with the sport.

“I was a running back at first and kept getting moved around,” Bryant said. “I was really about to quit football but one day I saw that Benardrick was going to Mississippi State. Seeing a big time player come out of Rosa Fort High School and go to an SEC school gave me a lot of hope. I thought that could be me one day so I just started to work towards my dream.”

Three years later, Bryant followed suit and joined McKinney by also signing with the Bulldogs. Bryant redshirted his initial season in 2014 and McKinney moved on as a second round draft pick of the Houston Texans.

Bryant spent his first season in Starkville learning more about the game.

“The redshirt year helped me out a lot because I really wasn’t football smart,” Bryant said. “In high school I was just playing off of raw talent. Now I’ve got the whole picture. I can recognize formations, form code, running back sets and everything. It was a big transition and the redshirt year helped me to learn.”

Bryant’s opportunity finally came this past fall, appearing in all 13 games. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder’s role would become even more vital as starting safety Kendrick Market was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Week 5.

Bryant would finish his redshirt freshman fall with eight starts under his belt. He was fifth on the team with 63 tackles and led MSU with three interceptions.

“I’m growing confidence every time I step out on the field,” Bryant said. “I know that I can go out there and make plays each game. I had to step up as a starter and go out there and do the right things and execute at a high level.”

Bryant returned his first career interception 73-yards for a touchdown against Louisiana Tech and his one-handed pick in the Belk Bowl went to No. 1 on SportsCenter’s Top 10. He was also named Tim Tebow‘s Freak of the Week prior to the Alabama game.

If Bryant can continue that type of production throughout his college career perhaps the next destination he follows McKinney to is playing on Sundays.

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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