LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Brandin Bryant grew up hearing about the football exploits of his grandfather at Nebraska, and he dreamed of the day that he, too, would play at Memorial Stadium.
His time comes Saturday, except he'll be wearing the blue and red of Florida Atlantic instead of the Cornhuskers' scarlet and cream.
Bryant will begin his second season as a starting defensive lineman for the Owls on the same field where Charles Bryant in 1953 was among the first two African-Americans to letter for the Huskers since 1913.
"When I walk out of the tunnel, he'll most likely be on my mind," Brandin said. "I'll try not to play with emotions. I'll try to get it all out of the way in the locker room. But it would be unavoidable not to think about him and what he meant."
Brandin was 11 when Charles died in 2004. During an interview, Brandin recalled going to his grandparents' house and having Charles help him with homework, play tee ball with him in the backyard and just talk sports.
"And he'd make me cut the grass over there all the time, too," Brandin said, laughing.
Charles was a multisport star at South High School in Omaha in the late 1940s and early '50s. Nebraska didn't offer athletic scholarships to blacks at the time, so against the advice of family and friends he walked on in 1951.
"There was an inertia within the black community in Omaha. The message was: 'Don't go there, you won't get a chance,' "Nebraska football historian Mike Babock said. "He went there and got a chance."
Coach Bill Glassford put Charles on scholarship in 1952, and the offensive lineman received All-Big Seven honors in 1954 while helping lead the Huskers to the Orange Bowl against Duke.
Brandin said his grandfather was humble about his athletic achievements and never complained about the abuse he and teammate Jon McWilliams sometimes endured because they were black.
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