Matt Bryant’s Heavy Day: Every Parent’s Nightmare

Before the game, only shared pain.

Before the game, only shared pain.

A kicker’s mind is supposed to be clear.

They live by rituals – preparing exactly the same way before each kick. They often stand at the same place on the sidelines; ask that the holder places the ball just so; take the same number of steps backwards to get into place, then – only when they’re ready – will the action begin.

Then the kicker thinks about nothing except swinging his leg.

No one yet knows what was on Matt Bryant’s mind today. But every parent can imagine what burden was laying upon his heart.

On Wednesday, Bryant, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ placekicker for the last four seasons, and his family awoke to discover 3-month-old Matthew Tryson Bryant dead in his crib. As of now, there has been no announcement as to a cause.

Matthew was the youngest of Matt (shown with Melissa and son Tre prior to Sunday’s game) and Melissa’s two sons. His funeral was Saturday.

And yet there was Matt, trying to keep a clear mind, trying to adhere to his rituals on Sunday at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium against Green Bay.

Going into the game, Bryant was one of the game’s most accurate kickers. He’d not missed a field or or PAT in five and eight tries, respectively. He remained perfect Sunday, hitting three PATs and field goals of 23, 36 and the game-winner from 24 yards during a 31-20 victory.

There may be some who criticize Matt for playing on Sunday. I am not among them. Nor do I think any parent would be.

They can only imagine his pain. And they never want to imagine his grief.

Grief requires peace. Grief requires finding a place where one can make sense of the senseless.

Grief requires finding a place in the mind that can be clear while the heart tries to mind.

Everyone has a different place. For some, it’s a place of solitude. For others, it may be a place that holds 65,857 people.

Matt Bryant’s place of peace and clarity was where it always is – on the football field.

A place where every parent’s prayers were with him.

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3 thoughts on “Matt Bryant’s Heavy Day: Every Parent’s Nightmare

  1. Lee Carlson says:

    Roy,
    Thanks for the story. I am a high school coach and we lost a player in a bus crash last fall. This fall we played a school with a similar tragedy and worked together to support each other.
    For the national anthem we lined up down the middle of the field from goalpost to goalpost, alternating our player, their player, our player, their player. Coaches alternated from sideline to sideline on the 5-yard line.
    The players were united in sportsmanship as they played their hearts out in tribute to their friends who were no longer with us. It was probably the cleanest game I have ever been part of in my decades of coaching. After the game, a 19-18 last minute thriller, we gathered together for some words and it was as if nobody wanted to leave, nobody wanted to let go of the night where they had a chance to pay tribute to their friends.
    It was a tragedy which created the situation but it was a glorious celebration of all that is good about high school sports and winning was secondary that night….and that is a tribute to the courage and spirit of the young men who played the game.

  2. John Konley says:

    Dear Roy,I couldn’t believe what I just read.The words you wrote were simply perfect.I had a nephew die of sids at 3 weeks old the same way back in 77.it was so hard for me,but I couldn’t even try to imagine how my sister felt,how she made it through and even went forward.Everyone says God has a reason for everything,and I believe this to be true.But thepain and suffering The Bryants are going through is immeasurable.I wish the best for Matt and his family.I wish the best for you.God Bless You all. Sincerely John P. Konley

  3. rpm1122 says:

    My heart goes out to Matt and guys like Trent Dilfer, Joe Jurevicius and other parents who lose children young.

    As a father of a four-year-old, I cannot imagine the pain and grief associated with such a loss.

    To all of the parents of the world who lose their young, God Bless.

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