His Cardinal football jersey hangs in the foyer at Bridge City High School, the No. 99 retired, but soon the famed No. 3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will become part of an exhibit honoring Bridge City native Matt Bryant.

Bryant, an outstanding football and baseball player for the Bridge City Cardinals, will be inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast, Feb. 21. He has also been selected to marshal the 2009 Port Arthur Mardi Gras Parade.

Matt Bryant becomes the fourth Bridge City Cardinal football player to be inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Steve Worster, Shane Dronnett and Jason Mathews have also been inducted. 

“I’m very appreciative to be acknowledged,” Bryant said “Anytime you get recognized in this kind of capacity it is an honor.” He is the son of Casey and Mary Bryant of Bridge City.

In 2006, Bryant, a place kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, booted a franchise-record 62-yard field goal as time expired to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the third longest in NFL history. He became a finalist for the 2007 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award – not for his proficiency as a kicker but for his community service work. He became a spokesman for Florida’s “Child Predator Cyber Crimes Unit.”

But one of his greatest achievements may have been born from tragedy during the 2008 season.

After the death of his 3-month-old son Tryson, Sept. 24, Bryant, 33, and his wife, Melissa, founded the Matthew Tryson Bryant Foundation. The foundation raises and allocates funds to several children’s charities and to help fund research into SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Recently, actor and director Kevin Costner, and a host of athletes and celebrities helped raise proceeds to go to the foundation.
Initially, Bryant paid tribute to his son the best way the six-year veteran of the NFL knew how.

On the day following the funeral, Bryant returned from Bridge City to Tampa and kicked three field goals plus three extra points in an emotional, 30-21 victory against the Green Bay Packers. Bryant blew a kiss with his left hand after each field goal to his son, who didn’t awaken when wife Melissa rounded up their five children.

“I went out there to honor Tryson’s name,” Bryant said in a post-game interview, “Today was his day. I just wanted to remind him, he’s my baby boy. And he’s with me all the time.”

The Glazer family, who own the Bucs, chartered a plane so the Bryants could fly to Texas for the burial and returned to Tampa accompanied by family members and close friend, Jeff Anderson of Bridge City.

It was an emotional locker room when Buccaneer head coach Jon Gruden handed Bryant the game ball.

Costner, and his alt-country band Modern West, entertained during the “Saturday Night Spectacular” during Super Bowl weekend in Tampa. Costner said the opportunity to help the foundation’s cause was the reason he took part in the event.

Also making appearances for the fund raiser were Michael Strahan, a former defensive standout for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Strahan and Bryant were former teammates in New York. “It makes me feel really good to give something back to someone I care about,” Strahan said. “Once you play with somebody and they’re your teammate, they’re your family.” A gathering of lead singers from some of the biggest names in pop and rock from the early 1980s also performed.

Bryant signed on with the New York Giants in 2002. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent on March 2, 2005.

He and his wife Melissa have been active in helping other parents and families deal with illness and loss, including hosting a fund raiser for cystic fibrosis recently. The Bryants were named the 2008 Ambassador Family for the March of Dimes Florida Chapter and in August were named Florida’s March of Dimes Volunteers of the Month.

As part of the Raymond James Kicking for Kids program, Bryant helped raise funds for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.

Matt Bryant was a member of the 1992 Cardinal baseball team under then-head coach Chuck Young. The team finished the season in the final round of UIL State Baseball Championship. During the 1992 baseball season Bryant once hit four home runs in four consecutive times at bat. It was the only time the Cardinals would make the trip to Austin until Bryant’s brother, Billy Bryant, brought the Cardinals to back-to-back state tournaments in 2005 and 2006.
His five year coaching record for the Cardinals was 151-32.
Matt Bryant also has an older brother Kim and sister Sherry.
After high school Matt Bryant would go on to attend Trinity Valley Community College in Athens where he was a two time NJCAA All-American and a member of the 1994 National Championship team. He then signed with Oregon State University, later transferring to Baylor University where he ranks seventh in all-time scoring list with 105 points (21 field goals and 42 extra points). Also, his 21 field goals place him fifth in Bears history, and he hit 42-42 extra points to set the school record with a 100-percent success rate.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast is administered by the Port Arthur Historical Society. Because of Mardi Gras festivities in downtown Port Arthur the induction ceremony for Matt Bryant is by invitation only.