ELIZABETHTOWN — Desmond Bryant, the standout East Bladen High athlete who went on to play college football at Harvard University and now plays in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders, will visit the Eagles Nest on Tuesday for a special ceremony to retire his No. 44 jersey.
The event will take place between the girls and boys varsity basketball games against South Columbus High, at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Though he was born in Illinois and ended up playing three years of high-school football in Delaware, Bryant’s family moved to Bladen County and he played his senior season of 2003 at East Bladen High under coach Lenon Fisher. The Eagles went 13-1 that season, losing to Southwest Onlsow in the Eastern region finals, and Bryant was named to the all-conference team.
Aside from his athletic prowess, Bryant also excelled in the classroom. He graduated with a 4.2 weighted GPA and scored an 1830 on the SAT exam. That set up a difficult decision for Bryant — he was being pursued by Duke, Florida A&M and Towson State for his football skills; but he focused his attention on the Ivy League, regardless of the fact that it would come without an athletic scholarship, and chose Harvard’s academic scholarship.
While at Harvard, Bryant played 32 games for the Harvard Crimson and, in his senior season, was named second team All-Ivy League. Academically, Bryant majored in economics.
In 2009, the 6-foot, 6-inch, 311-pound Bryant was selected by the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent. He was inserted into the defensive tackle position. In 2012, he started eight games and played in all 16 of Oakland’s regular-season games.
Throughout his NFL career, Bryant has recorded 124 tackles, 10.5 quarterback sacks and has forced three fumbles.
The last East Bladen varsity player to wear No. 44 was Terrance Burney, a fullback/linebacker for the 2011 Eagles. Prior to that, Phil Wilson, another fullback/linebacker for the Eagles, wore No. 44 during the 2008 season.