by Austin Silvey @SilveyESP
PIEDMONT, SC -- Every number, jersey, scar and bruise has a story behind it. You don’t have to look hard to find them. But in order to understand them, you have to do a little digging.
The Wren Hurricanes are fresh off a historic season that included hosting their first ever Upper State Title game along with the first State Championship appearance and victory in the programs history. They finished the 2019 campaign with a 13-2 overall record and the Class 4A State Title trophy after beating the reigning champion Myrtle Beach Seahawks in Columbia, 35-23.
Led by a special group of seniors, the Hurricanes stormed their way through the 2019 season en route to their picture perfect finish. It was the culmination for countless hours of sacrifice, hard work and dedication. But for one senior in particular, this season was the ultimate way to honor the number on his back and live up to the standard of the guy who wore it before him.
Former Clemson quarterback, and most recent Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant, is also a Wren football and basketball alum. He transferred into Wren from Abbeville before his junior year. He would sport the number '2' as quarterback of the Hurricanes.
In 2014, Bryant wasn't feeling well during one of his basketball games at Wren High School. He sat in the locker room sick and said he saw blood in his throw-up. Doctors ended up finding a softball sized abscess blocking Bryant's lower intestine and he had to get emergency surgery done.
It was a bi-product of Crohn's Disease. If the abscess were to burst, it could have killed Bryant. He had to undergo a second surgery at a later date and eventually recovered from it.
Bryant would go on to commit to play football at Clemson University in early August of 2014, just before his senior season. That year, Bryant threw for over 3,500 yards, 41 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions accompanied by 720 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.
Bryant led Wren to an 11-1 season that ended with a second round loss in the playoffs to Emerald High School, 24-21, thus ending his Hurricane football career.
The most recent player to wear the #2 for the Hurricanes is senior linebacker Dez Frazier, who has started on the team since his freshman year at Wren.
My first time ever seeing Wren play was at the Anderson County FCA Jamboree back in August of this year. They wore the all white uniforms. Dez is one of the guys that immediately stood out to me in their game. He played with fire, a high-motor, and was constantly around the ball.
The next time I saw the Hurricanes in person was week nine of the regular season as they hosted BHP in a critical region matchup. At some point in the game, I noticed a rip in the lower left corner of the back of Dez's yellow jersey. I assumed it happened in the game at some point and ignored it from that point on.
Three weeks later, in round two of the SCHSL playoffs, Wren was hosting Greer at Hurricane Stadium. Early on into the game I noticed the same tear in Frazier's #2 jersey. It struck me as curious. All I could do was wonder as to why it wasn't fixed or did it get fixed and torn again.
The same thing happened two weeks after that when Wren hosted the Upper State title game vs Ridge View. Now, for whatever reason, my curiosity was at it's peak. The rip in his jersey had become iconic in a sense, as though it were a symbol of his no-quit, fight for every tackle, and relentless style of play.
In almost every game I saw Wren play, at some point I would see Dez get up slowly or hobble to the sideline. But each of those times would be followed by him going back into the game shortly after and immediately making a play.
Dez always plays with a fire that can't be put out. Every snap is treated like it could be his last and he refuses to let himself give anything less than his best on every single play.
He epitomizes the spirit of a fighter. He is the embodiment of the quote from Rocky Balboa, "It ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."
On Saturday, December 7, 2019, Wren took the field at Williams-Brice Stadium to play for a State Championship. As the team ran out of the tunnel, I saw #2 leading them out, hammer in hand with the same iconic rip in his jersey.
Many Wren alum were at the game to watch their school compete for it's first state title in history. One of those people was none other than Kelly Bryant.
As I continued to think about it, the more it peaked my interest. I had to know what the rip in the jersey represented. What was it's purpose? What was the story behind it?
"It was ripped when Kelly Bryant wore it and I just wanna live up to it," Dez told me a couple days after winning the 2019 State Championship.
Suddenly it clicked. Kelly Bryant has been a fighter his whole life, both on and off the field. It made perfect sense for a player & warrior like Dez to wear the same jersey KB wore in his time with the Hurricanes.
"When I first saw it he told me about how Kelly Bryant wore it when it tore and he wanted to keep it like that to pay respect," Wren coach Joshua Abrams told me. "That just speaks to his character and how passionate he was about it....We said let it go and let him flourish with it!"
Defensive coordinator Quinnon Isom added a little more to the story behind the rip. "It was Kelly Bryant's old jersey and it was torn by a playoff opponent during Kelly's last playoff game at Wren. Dez takes a lot of pride in wearing his old jersey number and making sure he represents that jersey well."
There is absolutely zero doubt that he represented that #2 jersey well. The stats speak for themselves. The level of play on the field and desire to not just represent Wren the right way but also one of it's strongest & brightest alum spoke even louder.
He could have got a new jersey or patched that one up but instead he chose to wear it as it was to honor a former player that also embodied what it means to be a Wren Hurricane.
"I kept it that way on my own," Frazier said. "[Kelly Bryant] was a great part of the team. He really showed love to us and we appreciate that. It just means the world to me to have someone like him have our backs."
The rip in the jersey came in Bryant's final game as a Hurricane. And in Dez's final game with Wren, he capped off his career and honorable gesture to KB by helping the Hurricane's win their first ever State Championship....with Bryant there to witness it.