By Dave Rogers
For The Record

When called on to kick an extra point or field goal in Sunday’s Super Bowl 51, Bridge City native Matt Bryant will be giving the Atlanta Falcons all he’s got.
“My philosophy has been to always do good today so they’ll let you come back tomorrow,” he said.
The leading scorer in the NFL this year for the highest-scoring team in the NFL is playing in his first Super Bowl game after 15 seasons in The League.
“As a kid, you always watch that game. Then as you get older, you’re going to somebody’s house with buddies to watch that game,” Bryant said. “Then after you get into the league, you hope you can get to that game.
“And now you’re here. It’s a pretty neat experience.”
The Falcons went 11-5 in the regular season to win their division, then averaged 40 points scored and a 20-point winning margin in the playoffs.
Bryant earned his first Pro Bowl invite this season but had to pass on last weekend’s all-star event in Orlando to get ready for Houston.
As sweet as the journey has been to get to NRG Stadium and the big showdown with the New England Patriots, one thing would make it sweeter.
“A win,” he said.
It could only be better, if …
“I wish my dad was still here to experience it … and my son Tryson as well,” Bryant said.
Matt and his wife Michelle have seven healthy children between them, all under 20. Tryson Bryant died as an infant from SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, in 2008.
His father, William S. “Casey” Bryant, was one of the first coaches for Bridge City High and a 50-year employee of the school district. He died in 2009 at age 77.
Matt says he always wanted to be a linebacker. Kicking was just something he did to kill time when he was young and growing up in Bridge City.
“I wanted to be a linebacker,” he recalled in an interview last week. “I wanted to knock some people around. Kicking was just something I could do. I was good at.
“I wasn’t thinking about kicking a field goal in the Super Bowl. I was thinking about tackling somebody, scoring a touchdown.”
But by the time he had left Trinity Valley Community College for Baylor, he was a full-on kicker.
Even if it took him four years after his 1998 graduation from Baylor to get into his first NFL training camp.
“It was definitely a struggle to get my foot in the door but I think it all goes back to whenever I was 7, 8 years old with what me and my dad did, him guiding me along this path with the practices and the work that went into them.
“Honestly, I’m reaping the rewards that were instilled in me a long time ago.”
The Bryant household was located within a couple of yards from the high school stadium. The youngest of four siblings, Matt would tag along with his father.
“It was a matter of just walking out of the house. The high school football field was right there,” Bryant said.
“My dad, he would actually clean the fields after a Thursday night game. So while he was picking up the trash under the stands, I was actually kicking through the uprights.”
Bryant’s big 2016 season, making 34 of 37 regular-season field goals, left him at No. 9 all-time among the NFL’s most accurate field goal kickers with more than 100 career attempts.
But Bryant points out his .856 career mark makes him No. 1 among kickers with more than 350 attempts. Nobody ahead of him on the accuracy chart can come close to his 334 makes or 390 attempts.
“It’s been a long one, that’s for sure,” he says of his journey. “There have been a lot of obstacles, a lot of challenges; it has not been easy at any moment.
“I have accomplished a lot. As an individual I think I’ve done everything I could possibly do. I’d say the only thing left is to win this Super Bowl.”
So is he thinking of walking away from the game if that win comes Sunday … retiring?
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Bryant said. “I think I still have a couple more years left in me.
“We’ll see how it goes.”