By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Ole Miss linebacker Serderius Bryant called his spring break visit to Haiti an “eye-opening” experience.
It left him humbled to compare the poverty and struggle of village life to his world, and Bryant also wants to use the experience to show his teammates that he’s making a serious attempt to distance himself from his off-season arrest. He wants to be someone upon which they can rely on and off the field.
“I know that was a bad mistake that I did, so what I want to do is come out here and be a leader of my teammates,” Bryant said. “I’m a senior this year so I feel like I’ve got to do something extra. Like going on that trip. I had to do that. Just to show my boys that I’m different. I’m trying to change in a lot of different ways.”
The Haiti trip was organized by team chaplain John Powell and included 10 players, assistant coach Tom Allen and his family and other members of the team’s extended family.
The group spent a little less than a week in Haiti where they shared their faith and helped widen a narrow gravel road so trucks could pass through, and the village could more easily export its primary source of income, the papaya fruit.
“Haiti was everything you see on TV,” Bryant said. “Not having fresh water, them not being able to eat three meals a day. Sometimes they don’t even eat anything. It just makes me thankful for what I’ve got and what I’m doing here at this school.”
A rising senior from Sanford, Fla., Bryant was second-team All-SEC by the Associated Press last season.
He led the team in tackles with 78 and in tackles for loss with 12.5.
He was arrested in mid-February on charges of public drunkenness and disturbing the peace.
“That was all on me. I take full responsibility for everything I did, getting arrested I take full responsibility for it. I don’t blame it on nobody else but myself. I’ve got take the consequences. Whatever comes behind it I’ve got to take it and learn from it,” Bryant said.
At his pre-spring press conference Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze announced that Bryant and fellow linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche – who was arrested the same weekend in a separate incident – were suspended. Bryant has been allowed to participate in spring drills, Nkemdiche has not.
Freeze has said Nkemdiche will miss at least one game, the Rebels’ season opener against Boise State in Atlanta on Aug. 28.
Freeze said it was possible Bryant could work his way back into good standing before the season opener.
Additional community service will be among the requirements for Bryant to work his way back, but he appears on track. Each step he takes benefits him but also his teammates, he says.
“Just me helping out, I feel like that’s going to help me help them,” he said.