UH's Bryant plays it by the numbers
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
University of Hawai'i cornerback Jeramy Bryant wears his heart on his sleeve and his inspiration on his chest.
Bryant, who will be a senior in the fall, is sporting a new number this spring, changing to No. 8 from No. 18.
"It's a biblical meaning, that's why I changed it," said Bryant, who is from Carson, Calif. "In the Bible, there are a lot of key things (the number eight) represents as being a new beginning. So for me, it's my senior year, my last year, and I wanted it to be a new beginning from last year. You know, we didn't make a bowl, and we want to step up to a new level, a new beginning."
Associate head coach Rich Miano, who is in charge of distributing numbers, marveled at the culture of today's players, to whom single-digit numbers and brand names make more of a difference now than in Miano's playing days at UH and in the NFL.
"Jeramy is a guy who deserves a single digit," Miano said. "He's waited his time, he's a senior. I didn't know it was a biblical reference, but that's even better. It's a great reason to want the number, and he would have gotten it anyways, but he would have gotten it faster if he told me that."
Bryant tried to explain the importance of certain numbers to players, calling it a "comfort factor."
"Back in the day, Deion Sanders said, 'If you look good, you play good.' And I think that's what it is," he said. "Just feeling good and knowing you have everything you need out there with you."
The meaning of No. 8 for Bryant serves as a constant reminder to continually improve.
"A play I took off last year at practice, don't take that play off this year," he said.
It was a tough decision to change his number, because No. 18 also held strong significance for Bryant. The number was worn by his former pastor, Winston Phillips, of Spirit of Truth Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
"That was his number in college," Bryant said. "Before he died, I told him I would wear 18. It was hard for me to let that number go."
"He mentored me a lot back home and got me to be a man," Bryant explained. "Coming from that type of area and the things that go on around there, it's hard sometimes for the youth, but God guided me to him.
"The day I got out here was the day he passed away," said Bryant of Phillips, who died from kidney failure. "It was hard, I lost a lot of weight at first. I believe I came out here at 177 and I went down to 165, because I was just stressing out. I regrouped, got my weight back, and now it's a fresh start."
Part of that fresh start is a renewed sense of purpose for the entire team, especially with the season opener against Southern California.
"Beat USC. Period," Bryant said. "It's on everybody's mind, from our head coach to the trainers. You can tell. From the way we worked this offseason to the way we're communicating, the camaraderie in the locker room, a lot of things have changed, and I believe it's because of the preparation for that game."
Bryant earned a starting position at right cornerback last season, but missed a few games because of an injured biceps.
Miano, who is also in charge of the secondary, called Bryant a "leader" of the defensive backs.
"He's a leader. He's first in line, he's first out to practice, he's going to spend the most time watching videos, he's going to take videos home with him. He's a consummate professional. He's married (to Keshauna) , he has children (daughters Keyana and Kennedy), he's just mature," Miano said.
"He's made that commitment to being a good football player, a family man, a good student, and a good leader for the defensive backs. You rarely come across a guy that you don't have to worry about in the classroom, off the field, on the field. He's going to work, work, work."