Oct. 10, 2003
By Tom Price, Gamecock Historian
Contacts made during a 14 year National Football League career with the Minnesota Vikings resulted in a post football career in sales for Bobby Bryant.
The former all-star Gamecock defensive back who played longer in the NFL than any other University of South Carolina alumnus, lives in Columbia and is a sales representative for Harmon Autoglass, a glass replacement firm based in Minnesota.
Bryant remained in the Minneapolis area when he retired from professional football in 1981 but four years later returned to Columbia to work with Boyd Management, a property development and management firm run by Ken Wheat, another former Gamecock football player. He left Boyd Management in 1990 for his present job.
“I knew some people back in Minnesota,” Bryant explained.
Bryant was six feet two inches tall and weighed about 145 pounds when Weems Baskin recruited him out of Macon, Ga., in 1963. Baskin was the head track coach as well as a football assistant and hoped Bobby might help the track team as a sprinter or hurdler in addition to playing football under head coach Marvin Bass.
Instead, Bryant in the spring turned to baseball as a left-handed pitcher and became one of the best of that era on both the gridiron and the diamond. He never weighed more than 172 pounds and his nickname was “Bones.”
After a year on freshman teams Bryant was a regular for three seasons in both sports and was named first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference in both football and baseball as a senior.
He won the Anthony J. McKelvin Award given annually to the outstanding athlete in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The New York Daily News and the Detroit Sports Extra named him to their All America teams. He played in the East-West Shrine Game and the Hula Bowl.
Bryant says probably his biggest football thrill as a Gamecock occurred in the only game that the Gamecock won his senior season. Paul Dietzel replaced Marvin Bass as head coach in 1966 and the Gamecocks traveled to Raleigh to play North Carolina State in the dedication game at Carter Stadium.
Bryant returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown that sparked Carolina to a 31-21 win. Thirty seven years later Bryant says it was probably a mistake for him to field the punt at his two yard line but he received a couple of key blocks from teammates and everything worked out. The 98 yards is still a school record for longest punt return and Bryant also had a 77 yard punt return against Louisiana State in the 1966 season opener.
In baseball Bryant was the first South Carolina pitcher to strike out 100 batters in a season and once pitched a 13 inning complete game, 1-0 win, over the University of Maryland. In one game he walked the first two batters in the first inning and picked both of them off base.
Bryant was drafted for baseball by the New York Yankees in 1966 and the Boston Red Sox after his senior season in 1967. In the football draft the Vikings chose him in the seventh round in 1967, the 167th player selected that year but the first Gamecock. Defensive back Stan Juk, by the Dolphins, and tackle Paul Phillips, by the Chargers, were also drafted that year.
It took a year for Bryant to make the Vikings team but for 14 seasons from 1968 through 1981 he was a regular under Coach Bud Grant. During the period the Vikings played in four Super Bowls and Bryant has four Super Bowl rings but he played in only two of them.
The 1969 Super Bowl game was against the Kansas City Chiefs and Bryant was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. In 1975 when the Vikings met the Pittsburgh Steelers Bryant missed the post season classic with a broken arm. He played in the 1973 Super Bowl against the Miami Dolphins and in the 1976 game against the Oakland Raiders.
Unfortunately for the Vikings they didn’t win any of their four Super Bowl appearances. Bryant retired with 50 NFL interceptions, a Viking career record.
His 33-year old daughter, Jennifer, is married and lives in Minnesota. She presented Bobby with his first grand child less than two years ago. His 24-year old son Blade lives in Columbia. His 21-year old son, Brady, is a senior at the University of Mobile in Alabama where he plays soccer.
Bryant was inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1979 and is also a member of the State of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.