Mississippi State safety Brandon Bryant discusses the loss of his father and his position coach as well as his team's work for the Belk Bowl

It has been the best of times and the worst of times for Mississippi State safety, Brandon Bryant. Bryant has received acclaim for his play as a freshman safety throughout the 2015 season. Set to enjoy the first bowl game of his college career, Bryant was hit with the news that his father had been lost in a tragic accident. The Tunica, Mississippi product must now lean on family, both blood and Bulldog, to make it though.

"I took a little time off for a recent loss in my family," Brandon Bryant said. "It's good to be back with my brothers. Just to have the comfort of being around them. I didn't feel the same way about missing practices knowing that my brothers were out there working and I was trying to sit back and deal with family problems.

"It is what it is and I am happy to be back to play every snap with my brothers."

Getting back into flow of the football routine appears to have been a solid step in the grieving process for the talented safety.

"I have 105 brothers," Bryant said. "You may have a brother or sister or siblings back home, but it's nothing like the brothers here, because you're here all of the time. You spend most of your time here and there is a real brotherhood here."

Bryant's position coach, Tony Hughes, recently accepted the head coaching position at Jackson State University. The veteran coach will certainly be missed in Starkville, by coaches, fans and players alike.

"Not only was he a good coach, but a good man for the whole room," Bryant said. "He used to come and the first thing he would do in the room was give us a Bible scripture and tell us what it means. That helped us have a better day everyday as we came in. 

"He was a great man, an outstanding man and a great coach too. He knew what to do, because he coached for so long. We just went on with the flow with it. He was really chill about everything. He didn't ever really try to outdo anybody. That's why we became good as a secondary this year."

Looking ahead, Bryant will miss Hughes' daily presence around the Mississippi State football program. That said, it is time to move towards a new day in the Bulldog safeties room. 

"Obviously it's going to hurt us a little bit," Bryant said. "Things happen. Coaches move on for business or family situations. You just have to know the game and keep on going forward."

Life goes on and the Wolfpack of NC State will certainly look to make plays down the field vertically if they can. Bryant reports that the Bulldog safeties have not missed a step in practice thanks in large part to other Mississippi State staff members.

"We have a very great assistant coach named Ephraim Banda," Bryant said. "He is one of the best assistant coaches that I have dealt with. He is an outstanding coach. He knows everything about the game and everything about Coach (Manny) Diaz' defense. He has been with him for a long time since he was at Texas.

"He is just a great man. He breaks everything down to us. He makes us fit in every play and go hard on every snap to show what we can do on the back end."

With changes to his inner circle beyond his control, Bryant is now focused on closing out his freshman campaign with a bowl win over NC State in the Belk Bowl. While the personable Bryant wants to send the seniors out on the right foot, he also hopes that the returning players can use a victory as a springboard into spring football.

"It would mean a lot," Bryant said of a victory. "We need to go into the offseason with a positive attitude, so we can go to work and know that we sent the seniors off the right way. We just have to keep practicing hard this week and next week when we go to the bowl site and try to come out with a win."

Bryant was considered a strong candidate for freshman All-SEC honors, but once selections were announced fellow frosh Bulldog defender Gerri Green was the only newcomer selected from Starkville. The snub appears to have motivated the rising star.

"I think about all of the time, because it's been the same all of my life," Bryant said. "I have been the underdog ever since I was coming up. Nobody really knew about me in high school until my senior year. I was an underdog in recruiting and an underdog everywhere.

"When I first stepped on the field, I just wanted to make my presence felt. Now they did what they felt that they had to do, but I felt like I should have got it. I just have to move forward and make them feel me next year. I have to make them know that I better get it next year."

The stage is set for Bryant to let the nation know more about him on December 30th, when the Bulldogs travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on NC State. Playing in a bowl game will be a new experience for Bryant and his excited about the opportunity.

"I am just excited about going out and having fun and playing with my brothers," Bryant said. "It's another game before we end off the season. Just going out there having fun and flying around to the ball. It's just a great feeling when you're out there and you know you're beating someone and you're doing good out there on the field.

"I just want to send everybody out the right way. They deserve everything. They lead us the whole way. They brought me up and they brought all of the younger players up with the leadership that they have. So we want to send them out the right way."


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