March 2018: Jeff Bryant

jeff2Athletic Trainer Jeff Bryant Takes Care of his Hometown High School

Jeff Bryant is far from the typical athletic trainer. Bryant is a man who is dedicated to not only his position, but the town he works for and still calls home. Jeff Bryant has been a Mississippi Department of Health Licensed and Board of Certification Certified Athletic Trainer for the Hattiesburg Public Schools since 1993. Bryant has helped oversee Hattiesburg High School student athletes now for 25 years and has enjoyed every day.

Jeff Bryant has remained a Hattiesburg, Mississippi resident his entire life. Bryant attended Hattiesburg High School where he played varsity football for the Tigers. Bryant decided to stay close to where he lives and attended Pearl River Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi, earning a degree in Athletic Training. Bryant proceeded to return to his alma mater, Hattiesburg High School.

Although Bryant oversees all sports throughout the year associated with the Mississippi High School Activities Association, the student athletes always know where to find him. Every coach has his cell phone number and student athletes are constantly checking into the athletic training center either for advice, or just to say hello. The love for the hometown athletic trainer is unbeatable.

“I have current and former student athletes calling me on holidays wishing me well, along with calling and emailing me on my birthday making sure my day is going well, I even have a few call me on Father’s Day.” Stated Bryant when asked about his connection with the student athletes.

The toughest thing for Bryant and his position as an athletic trainer is the balancing of all the events he must attend. Fortunately, the Hattiesburg Public Schools employed athletic trainer Brian Maskew, allowing the high school to be the first in the state of Mississippi to employee an athletic training staff, still having some limited athletic coverage. A large part of the difficulty is trying to get to all the practices, games and the student athletes needs in a timely manner. Bryant discussed how the hard working student athletes never want to address their injuries due to the fear of being taken out of the game, but understand the importance of opening up.

“The struggle of having to choose between events is easily the most difficult part of the job. However, I’m always on stand-by ready to head to wherever I need to go if something happens to a student athlete. One of the more major issues is when a student athlete is injured, but not wanting to admit it. That is when I must really attend to the student athlete care.” Replied Jeff on struggles of the position.

Bryant’s long career with the Hattiesburg Public Schools has entailed witnessing some intense and emotional moments. Bryant explained a story about one student athlete playing goalie for the opposing soccer team. The student athlete dove to block the ball and hit his head on the goal post. He lay still for a few moments as Bryant sprinted out to the field evaluating the situation, then assisting the injured student athlete to the athletic training center. The student athlete panicked asking what happened as he could not recall the incident. The student athlete was taken to the emergency room. Jeff then came back out to the field. As the soccer tournament continued, Jeff notices a helicopter flying north. It turns out that the student athlete had sustained a brain injury and was being flown to Jackson for further pediatric care. One year later, Bryant encountered the student athlete again.

“We were at the same soccer tournament a year later and I see the same student walking towards me. I knew immediately who it was. He came up to me and began to thank me for helping him on the field that day. It was an extremely emotional moment for me and proud moment in my career as a health care professional that I will never forget. Like I always say about my job, “It’s all about the kids.” Says Bryant.

Jeff Bryant has been the face of help for Hattiesburg Public Schools Athletic Programs and its student athletes for almost 25 years. His drive, motivation, and love for the students keeps his heart full and mind concentrated on his career. He advises all who follow the athletic training profession to have the same attitude and to find the joy in being surrounded by the student athletes, their family’s athletic staff and the game!  In conclusion, Jeff is a hometown icon and his passion is greatly appreciated by those same student athletes, parents and staff of Hattiesburg High School. Go Tigers!!!