Most Caring Athletes : Bryant Young & Junior Bryant

by By Dennis McCafferty

Football: San Francisco 49ers Make the most of a second chance

There is a flash of light: The water heater’s pilot goes bad again at a relative’s house, so Junior Bryant and his mom try to restart it. Then comes the explosion — everything is scalding heat and confusion. Junior, 15, doesn’t have time to think before he sees his own skin dangling from his arms. His mom is in even more threatening condition.p. Then, another flash of light: They both survive. And Junior undergoes introspective change. “I saw the accident as a second chance,” says Bryant, 29, a defensive tackle. “I could have died. It gives you a lot to think about. I concluded that this happened for a reason.”p. Today, Bryant devotes much of his time to 90 Ways, his foundation. The effort helps support the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation in greater San Francisco. He is constantly there to help rehabbing child victims cope, to take their small hands into his big, strong ones and comfort them. "I tell them, ‘This injury is part of you, but you’re not defined by it,’ " Bryant says. " ‘It can make you stronger. You’ll be able to handle anything after this.’ "p. Bryant doesn’t look far to find an eager partner in helping people. Fellow defensive tackle Bryant Young has launched the Young Dreams Foundation, allowing needy children to go holiday shopping with athletes, as well as supporting college scholarships and after-school rec programs.p. “I want to give these kids a chance to succeed in life,” says Young, 28.p. On the field, both men can be a terror. Off the field, they are “B.Y.” and “J.B.” to each other, two decent men from the Midwest who both played at Notre Dame. They often give each other support off the field. Young, for example, is happy to travel to Bryant’s hometown of Omaha to assist his friend with a free football clinic for needy kids. “That really helps out,” Bryant says. “It’s tough to get people to come out to Omaha. So he’s my man.”p. _Bryant Young is a 1994 Notre Dame graduate. Junior Bryant is a 1993 graduate. To view other USA Today’s Most Caring Athletes, see USA Weekend, September 24, 2000issues/000924/000924athletes.html _ _

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