Local hero Bryant honored for donation
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
Matt Bryant admitted he didn’t really know Kelly Hart, president of Bridge City Youth Football, and he played for a different league growing up.
But the NFL’s leading scorer in 2016 knows a good project when he hears one.
And if it’s for kids, it gets Bryant’s attention.
“Any time kids are involved, if I can, I try to step up,” said the former all-district linebacker for Bridge City High who is beginning his 16th season as a kicker in the NFL.
Hart contacted Bryant a few months ago when the league needed a new scoreboard for its field, which sits behind the Bridge City Little League diamonds off W. Roundbunch Road.
Bryant, a father of seven who helped the Atlanta Falcons reach Super Bowl 51 last year, agreed to the donation.
The league, in turn, named their home turf “Matt Bryant Field” and attached the sign below the end zone scoreboard, just to the left of the goal post uprights.
“It’s nice to be able to do something for the kids from my hometown,” Bryant said. “And it’s always nice to look up to a nice scoreboard.
“If the kids see my name up there — even though it’s been a long time since I’ve been around there playing — it will be a reminder that coming from a small town, that dreams can still be realized.
“And, too, you don’t necessarily have to be a professional athlete. You can be whatever you want to be. It’s possible.”
Bridge City Youth Football plays in the Southeast Texas Junior Football League, against teams from all area cities. There are six BC teams, in divisions for ages 5 through 11, with 100 football players. Nearly 50 girls are part of the league’s cheer program.
When Bryant was young he played in a league that just had competition among Bridge City kids. He recalls that a baseball or softball field used to sit where the Matt Bryant Field is today.
The BC youngsters open competition Saturday. Hart’s peewee team hosts Little Cypress-Mauriceville. They take off next weekend for Labor Day and then play seven more weeks of league action, with playoffs and a Super Bowl a possibility.
Bryant got to last February’s Super Bowl by a circuitous route. He began at Trinity Valley College, then moved on to kick for Baylor.
He needed four years after his 1998 graduation from Baylor to catch on in the NFL. The Falcons are the fifth team he has played for.
But he is the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history with more than 350 attempts. He is 42 years old, but made 34 of 37 field goals in 2016, earning his first Pro Bowl selection.
And as another season begins, so too, come the inevitable questions about how much longer he’ll take on the NFL.
“That question comes up a bunch,” Bryant said. “It seems like the answer changes all the time, but as long as I can go out there and be competitive, I want to play.
“As long as I can be successful. Right now, my concentration is on having another good year. After that, my contract’s up. I’ll be a free agent.
“I’ll go from there.”