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May 2, 2013

Hall of Fame

Kelvin Bryant joins North Carolina sports elite

RALEIGH — RALEIGH — When Kelvin Bryant stood to give his introductory speech during the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame 2013 news conference Wednesday, the Tarboro native said less than 60 words and took his seat.

It was vintage Bryant. A man of a few words.

However, Bryant isn't being inducted into the Hall of Fame for his oratorical skills, but rather for his stellar football career that spanned from high school to the USFL and on to the NFL.

Bryant is one of 13 people who will be inducted tonight in the 2013 class of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame at the Raleigh Convention Center. The new class marks the 50th year for the organization and caps the overall induction at a landmark 300.

"It is a surprise and a pleasant surprise," Bryant said. "This is an individual award, but this took a lot of help in order for me to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. My former teammates helped me out a lot. It's not just me. A lot of other people are involved."

Each inductee was asked to donated an item of their choice to the Hall of Fame. Bryant chose to deed his high school football jersey, No. 44. At Tarboro High School, Bryant was a star in football, baseball, track and basketball.

"That's where I started and I'm proud of Tarboro," he gave for the reason for deeding his jersey. "I love Carolina and I love the Redskins, but Tarboro is where I started. When people come here they will see my Tarboro High Viking jersey."

During Wednesday's news conference, each inductee present, was given an opportunity to speak. For Bryant's introduction, he was described as one of the most prolific runners in Tar Heel history.

"Those who know me know that I don't like to talk that much," he said. "I would like to thank the Sports Hall of Fame for selecting me and the rest of these guys. If I say anything else that will say a part of my speech, so I better sit down."

During an interview after the new conference, Bryant said he was surprised that he was chosen to be inducted. It was his modesty that allowed him to be surprised because, statistically, he has accomplished the marks of a superstar.

He exploded onto the national spotlight as a junior, rushing for 211 yards on 19 carries in the season opener against East Carolina. He also scored an ACC-record six touchdowns. He added five more touchdowns a week later against Miami of Ohio and four in the third game against Boston College. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter in any of those games. Bryant finished the season averaging 6.7 yards per carry and became the school’s third all-time rusher and scorer.

After his stellar college career, Bryant was drafted by the USFL Baltimore Stars where he was named Most Valuable Player in 1983. After the USFL folded, he signed with the Washington Redskins and was a part of the team that won Super Bowl XVII. Bryant's professional career was cut short in 1989,0 due to injuries, and he retired in 1990.

Although there were many accolades he made on the field, when Bryant was asked about one of his most memorable moments, he didn't mention statistics at first, but a moment in the East Carolina game. In that game, former North Carolina Tar Heel defensive back Steve Streater, who was paralyzed  in a car accident, was on the sideline.

"One of the most memorable things that I can remember is running over and giving Steve Streater the ball," he said. "I don't know what prompted me to do that. I just saw him sitting there. I gave him one ball, then I gave him another ball. He spiked the second one."

After sharing the Streater story, Bryant said that was a special game and he praised his offensive line for "opening gaping holes. That was an easy game for me," he said.

Bryant can be found these days back in his home town, Tarboro where he works at a nursing home facility. During football seasons he spends Friday nights on the sideline cheering on his alma mater and on Saturday, he is in Chapel Heel with the Tar Heels.

It's been more than 20 years since Bryant played. Time has diminished his stardom to the point that younger sports fans don't know him. That's how Bryant likes it. Even when he was well known, Bryant didn't like attention. His induction speech may reflect that. When asked how long will it be he said, "Not very long. It's going to be short and straight to the point."

 

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