Jacksonville Daily Progress
The past three years the Bullard Panther football team made a huge turnaround. From the district doormat… to the playoffs…. and barely missing a playoff spot in this years fatal ‘District of Doom.’
A vital cog to the Panther turnaround has been the solid play on both sides of the ball of Haden Bryant. Haden was one of two Bullard players to grab all-district honors on the first team, both offensively and defensively has two earlier years of all-district awards in football, track and baseball also.
Tag on his 2012 All-State kudos and his All-State Academic honors, combined with a lot of sweat and tears over the past three years all paid off on Wednesday at Bullard High School’s, Owens Auditorium as the senior WR/DB, signed a national letter-of-intent to play for the Division II powerhouse, Northwestern University, in Maryville, Missouri.
Northwestern is a member of the Mid-America International Athletic Association and has won five conference, titles in-a-row.
The Bearcats have the most wins of any DII football program since 1996, posting a 10-3 record last season.
Bryant brings some high accolades and big numbers from his senior season as the Panthers finished 10-3, and one-game from a repeat playoff appearance.
This past season alone on offense, Haden made 13 touchdown receptions, and caught a total of 40 passes for 879-yards and a hefty 21.95 yards per-catch.
Bryant had received some attention for DI programs such as SMU and Tulsa, while Midwestern State, West Texas A&M, Hardin-Simmons and Mississippi College were among others showing interest in the two-way threat.
Bullard head coach, Shannon Wilson started off the signing with a few cords about Haden and his Panther career.
“Today we are here because of a lot of hard work, hard work by the team and I know Haden will be a great success at Northwestern,” Wilson said. “I believe Northwestern is a lot like Bullard….family oriented and they believe in everything morally we strive to impress on the kid’s here at Bullard so it’s gonna be a great fit and Northwestern is fortunate to get such a fine young man.”
Bryant made a few other visits but knew he was home when he went to the Maryville campus.
“When I made my visit I just really liked the coaches and the people at the school, “ said Bryant, planning a Business major. “And the idea of red-shirting my first year I really liked because it will help me adjust to college, the program and put some work in next year to get better.”
When asked about his favorite memory as a Panther, Bryant was quick to recall the playoff run as a junior.
“Getting the school back to the playoffs after so long and going three-deep was just amazing,” Bryant said. “The whole community was just going crazy and the team it was great to see what hard work and buying into the program can do when a whole team buys in to something new.
“Coach Wilson and all the coaches have just been great and given me the knowledge I feel like I’m ready both mentally and physically for that next step.”
Bryant, as all freshmen do in the Bearcat program will red-shirt this next season and join the playing roster in 2014.