Bryant is Troy football’s first female student assistant

Published 7:59 am Wednesday, October 12, 2022

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While Troy University freshman McKenzie Bryant can be considered a “trailblazer” as the Trojan football team’s first female student assistant coach, she carries herself like a seasoned veteran.

Bryant, a Bay Minette native, served as a manager on her high school football team at Baldwin County High School for three years before getting to Troy. In fact, it was one of her high school coaches that urged her to pursue a student assistant position at Troy. Bryant’s work ethic was apparent from the beginning as she came to an interest meeting more prepared than anyone could likely imagine.

“They had a interest meeting for student assistants in January and one of my (high school) coaches that I worked under before sent me Coach (Jon) Sumrall’s Tweet about it,” Bryant recalled. “I E-mailed them about it and went to the meeting with a resume, cover letter and 12 letters of recommendations from coaches I had worked under before.

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“They talked about the different areas you could start working under and I gave all the coaches I spoke to packets with my cover letter, recommendations and resume.”

Bryant said that she’s a lifelong football fan, growing up supporting the Trojans along with the Tennessee Titans in the NFL and as a big Alabama football fan, as well. At first, Bryant only heard back from Troy’s football recruiting department, for a chance to work behind the scenes.

“That really wasn’t what I wanted to do, I wanted to be on the field, but my mindset was that a foot in the door is a foot in the door,” Bryant said.

That changed in June, however, when Troy graduate assistant Jordan McDaniel contacted her and asked if she was still interested in an on-field position.

“He got me in touch with (defensive coordinator) Coach (Shiel) Wood and he brought me during fall camp and I’ve been here ever since,” she said. “It’s been great. I was nervous coming in because in high school those are all people I grew up with and knew most of my life.

“So, I was a little worried coming into a college setting where everyone is new. Everyone is really nice here, though, and they all welcomed me and it really is like a family here. I couldn’t ask to be at a better place.”

Bryant works as a student assistant under linebackers coach Tayler Polk, working with the inside linebackers. Bryant said that the players at Troy have embraced her from the beginning.

“That first day we came in, Aug. 2, all the guys had position meetings and it was the first time I had met any of the players,” Bryant remembered. “Coach Polk introduced me to Jordan Stringer in the hallway and he welcomed me to the team right there and embraced me from the very start, all the guys did.”

While females have not always been welcomed into the game of football in the past, that hasn’t been the case for Bryant at Troy.

“They never really looked at me as ‘just a girl’ or anything,” Bryant said of the way coaches and players have treated her. “It makes me feel really good. They’ve never made me feel less valuable, or what I’m saying was less valuable, because I’m a girl. They have all welcomed me and really boosted me up at times.

“In the first few days I would say something or talk about football and some of them would sort of get this wide-eyed, jaw dropped look but we got past that pretty quickly. They see me just as a coach here.”

As is pretty evident by the way she prepared for a simple interest meeting, Sumrall has praised her work ethic as a coach, as well. When Troy University’s Tropolitan Editor Emily Mosier asked Sumrall about Bryant at a press conference earlier this season, he couldn’t hide his pride.

“If I could get more female student workers to come out that are like McKenzie, I’ll take all of them,” Sumrall emphasized. “McKenzie might outwork some of our full-time (graduate assistants), not knocking those guys. As I’ve gotten to know her, she is a rockstar.

“She is knowledgeable football-wise, she is a relentless worker and she’s got a great sense of confidence about her. She is a tremendous addition to our program and brings a lot of value, she takes pride in her work; I cannot say enough good things about her and I’m really grateful she’s a part of our program. She’s a fantastic person and a great worker.”

One of the things that Bryant said that has stood out to her most in her young coaching career is just how much preparation goes into college football.

“Even just the daily practice scripts we have, so much goes into the preparation and the scheduling, and seeing everything behind the scenes that takes place has been really eye opening,” she said. “Coming from high school straight to a Division I school it’s been cool to see. There is a lot more that goes just into something like practice than I ever would have I expected.”

Bryant came to Troy as a journalism major and said that her goal was to one day be an analyst on ESPN, though coaching may change that trajectory.

“Now that I’ve gotten some experience into what coaching in this sport is like, it’s kind of taken my heart,” said Bryant. “I’m sort of at a standstill in what I want to do next, whether it’s in journalism or continuing to pursue a coaching career. Those are definitely my options that I want to pursue, one or the other.”

Bryant and the Trojans host Texas State for the 2022 Homecoming this Saturday at 2:30 p.m.