NEXT GAME

WHO: Charleston Southern (1-0) vs. Shorter University (0-0)

WHEN: Saturday, 11 a.m.

WHERE: CSU Stadium

One of the shining stars in Charleston Southern’s season-opening upset of The Citadel last week was senior linebacker Calvin Bryant.

Bryant finished with 12 tackles and forced a Citadel fumble in CSU’s 32-29 victory. He was named the Big South defensive player of the week and earned national defensive honors from The Sports Network.

It was a great start to a senior year that almost wasn’t. In the early days of his playing career at CSU, Bryant, a 5-11, 220-pounder out of Jacksonville, Fla., says he lost his way a bit and nearly left school.

“I had a couple of ups and downs, some things that I went through personally and things I had to overcome,” said Bryant. “A few years ago I didn’t know if this is what I wanted to do. I sort of lost my love for football.

“One day I just started asking myself, ‘Why do I love football?’ The answer was clear to me that I love football because of my teammates. I started to realize how blessed I was with this opportunity. I have a lot of friends back home that wish they could be out there playing. God has a plan for everybody and he was testing me. I’m glad I woke up.”

Through his first two seasons, Bryant saw limited playing time and totaled 36 tackles. Last season, he moved into more of a starting role and finished the season with 35 tackles. The light began to click over the final three games, a stretch that saw Bryant rack up 21 tackles.

Then came a new coaching staff in December and the rising senior was not sure what to expect. It was not long after meeting head coach Jamey Chadwell and defensive coordinator Chad Staggs that Bryant knew his final season could be very special.

“I could just feel the energy and passion and it immediately got me fired up,” he said. “As a senior, you get new coaches and you don’t know what to expect. But it didn’t take me long to understand the deal.”

Staggs says Bryant became an instant leader on the defense, through his voice but more so through his actions.

“There is no doubt that he’s a leader on this football team,” said Staggs. “He’s been here all summer and he’s right out front with everything we do. Every team needs leaders and he is certainly one for us. I’m glad he’s getting some recognition because he is very deserving of it.”

As CSU prepares for Saturday’s game against Shorter University, Bryant makes it clear that the victory at The Citadel is history. He is focused on the next game, not the last one.

“One of our former coaches, coach (Chuck) Kelly, used to tell us that we needed to play every play as if it were the last play we’d ever play,” said Bryant. “I never forgot that. That motivates me every day. I am so blessed to get this chance and I tell myself every practice and every game, just leave it all on the field. My last play will come someday. I just want to make sure when it comes, I can walk away and say I gave it all I had.”