Dedicated to Country and Community
(April 8, 2011)
U.S. Army 1st Lt. John R. Bryant, 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Charleston, S.C., breaks the through the defensive line and runs down the field, ready to offload the rugby ball to his two teammates, Pat Kurent and Logan Rada, during a match against the Charlotte Rugby Football Club Feb. 26,
2011. Bryant plays the forward position known as the eightman for the Charleston Outlaws Rugby Football Club.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (4/5/2011) – “Crouch. Touch.
Pause. Engage!” yells the referee, just before
the scrum begins to push and turn. The brawny
rugby players are bound together in a close-knit
huddle of black and white jerseys against green
and orange. With arms interlocking around the
shoulders or legs of each teammate, the men hold
on to anything they can to gain leverage against
The rugby ball, which is
shaped like a football with rounded end tips, is
dropped between the two opposing teams. With
their heads wedged between the bodies in front
of each player, both teams push forward,
beginning to rotate while grunting sounds
flourish from their mouths. The players scramble
their feet, attempting to rake the ball backward
to the eightman.
1st Lt. John R. Bryant,
an Embedded Training Team company advisor with
the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade,
Charleston, S.C., plays the forward position
known as the eightman for the Charleston Outlaws
Rugby Football Club.
The eightman is
literally the eighth man who is wedged in the
back of the pack of the scrum formation. A scrum
is a clash of the forwards from each team,
similar to linemen after the snap of a football.
The eightman position is important since the
player is waiting to recover and control the
loose rugby ball, as it is scrambles through the
feet of both teams.
Just as the ball is within the edges of the eightman's feet,
he pulls away from the pack, grabs the rugby ball and
charges down the pitch, or field, before hurling the ball
from his hip in a sideway motion to his teammate.|
Dodging the opponent, tossing the ball backward to one
another while running forward, the Charleston Outlaws manage
to touch down into the opponents “try zone,” awarding them
five points. A conversion is kicked through the goal posts,
awarding the team two more points.
Standing at 6 feet 2 inches
tall with 230 pounds of broad shoulders and thick muscular
thighs, the eightman on the Charleston Outlaws rugby team,
gathers his bearings and takes a swig of water before the
next play begins.
In the background, a volunteer
with Charleston Pet Helpers works the small crowd of people,
who are nestled in lawn chairs on the sidelines. She asks if
they would like to be added to the Charleston Outlaws
newsletter e-mail list or make a charitable donation to Pet
Helpers, a non-profit organization animal adoption center in
Charleston, S.C. Both endeavors are the workings of the
eightman, Bryant, an ambassador to his country and community
through the game of rugby.
“Johnny has a type of way
of playing number eight,” said Chris “Taffy” Greenslade, the
head coach for the Charleston Outlaws rugby team. “He is
learning and fitting in. We play better when he is on the
Bryant played many other sports before
entering the rugby pitch.
Bryant's father, Philip
Bryant, recalled a motivational speech he once gave John.
“John started wrestling in second grade, and I wanted
him to be more aggressive,” said Philip, who was an Army
Ranger during the Vietnam War. “So I told him, ‘every time
you put your opponent away in less than a minute, I will
give you a dollar.'”
The motivation of a dollar went
a long way.
John pinned his opponent in six seconds
but then looked back at the kid, who was crying. He told me
he felt sorry for the kid, recalled Philip.
age of 12 Bryant was on the rugby field. He was influenced
to play rugby by his father, who established a model for
implementing high school rugby programs in 1990 and was one
of the founding members of the Indiana University rugby team
“My dad signed me up to play rugby for the
Junior Olympics when I was 12, and we played in Florida,”
said Bryant. “That was my first organized competition.”
Even though there were not a lot of organized rugby
teams in the early 1990's, Bryant said his dad was starting
high school teams in the Midwest.
“John has always
been pretty serious about rugby,” said Philip. “When he was
in high school, it wasn't unusual for him to score seven or
eight tries (touchdowns) in a game.”
were many rugby successes for Bryant while he played for
Bloomington South High School, Bloomington, Ind., there were
moments of disappointment and realization.
wrestling, but I was heartbroken when I didn't make it to
state my senior year,” said Bryant. “I was just a better
rugby player and it was more fun.”
After high school,
Bryant wanted to play rugby and went to Indiana University,
the alma mater of his father, brother and sister.
enjoy the competition, the camaraderie and the work that
comes with the sport,” said Bryant. “Teamwork, the physical
and creative options of being successful with it makes rugby
unique and always different.”
brother and sister all played rugby for IU.
school and at IU, I played with my brother,” said Bryant of
David Bryant, who is a first lieutenant in the Indiana Army
National Guard and is currently training to become an
international rugby referee. “He was more of a technique
finesse player while I was more of a ‘run through them than
around them' kind of player.”
Bryant said one of his
fondest memories while at IU was during an annual alumni
rugby match that included his brother and father.
“There were a couple of times my dad played on the ‘old boys
team' against my brother and me,” said Bryant. “After
college, you can play until you die.”
played rugby until he was 64, currently serves on the board
of the Rugby Football Foundation.
Bryant continued to play rugby, and at the age of 29,
Bryant's rugby career has spanned over half of his life.
“I have played on several teams spanning from the Junior
Olympics to the Combined Services rugby teams,” said Bryant,
who discovered the Combined Services rugby team while
playing for the Chicago Lions Rugby Football Club.
was playing for Chicago Lions when we made it to the
semi-finals for the super league national tournament,” said
Bryant. “We lost to Old Mission Beach Athletic Club, but
afterwards I spoke to a couple of the OMBAC team members who
The Marines told Bryant, who was
assigned to the Illinois National Guard, about the Combined
Forces rugby team.
During the summer of 2007, Bryant
joined the Combined Forces team, where they traveled to Fort
Benning, Ga., to play against the British Royal Air Force
“That was my first experience with the
team, and then the next time was in Australia in July 2010,”
said Bryant. “We played four games and toured all over
Bryant is currently training for the
National Defense Services tournament that coincides with the
Rugby World Cup this October in Australia and New Zealand.
“I am preparing for the tournament by training in
mixed martial arts and playing rubgy,” said Bryant, who won
second place in the heavy weight division during the 2011
Army National Guard Combatives Tournament at Fort Benning,
Ga., March 20.
When Bryant isn't playing rugby or
training in mixed martial arts, he is doing what he can to
raise public awareness about the Charleston Outlaws rugby
“I started doing rugby fundraisers while at
IU,” said Bryant, who is the public affairs officer and
fundraising chairman for the Charleston
The fundraising experience Bryant gained during his
years at IU were beneficial for the Charleston Outlaws, the
team he joined only last year.
“A lot of people in
Charleston don't know the team exists,” said Bryant. The
team has been here since 1973, moving from a social club to
a competitive team in the last 10 years, said Bryant.
Fundraising for the Outlaws also includes raising money
for local charity organizations in the Charleston area.
Bryant chose to honor his mother, who passed away from
breast cancer when he was 2, by supporting the Hollings
Since he served in Afghanistan in
Oct. 2008 to Aug. 2009, Bryant wanted to raise funds for the
Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, where he sometimes plays
cards with veterans on Sundays.
organizations include the Carolina Youth Development Center,
Pet Helpers and Habitat for Humanity.
fundraising helps tremendously,” said Greenslade. “We don't
get paid and raising money makes it more affordable for the
Bryant plans seven fundraising events a
year, which helps pay for the
equipment and travel expenses. Two big events benefit all
five organizations, where 90 percent of the funds go to the
charities. The other five events are partnered with each
specific charity, splitting the funds equally between the
organization and the Outlaws.
The Outlaws are also
sponsored by local businesses, including the Medical
University of South Carolina Sports Medicine, Cambria Sports
and The Brick, their official location for post game
Although the fundraising was a learned task
while at IU, Bryant possesses charisma and the gift of gab.
His tall stature, black hair and hazel eyes only add to
Bryant's dazzling smile. He has a love for the game while
helping promote the team.
“We needed someone as a
store front,” said Greenslade. “Someone to push the club
As the eightman, Bryant is used to pushing
his teammates forward. Whether he is in the back of the
scrum formation or working on fundraising and rugby
awareness, Bryant continues to be an ambassador for his team
and his country.
“Johnny is a valuable asset to the
team, being in the military and from a military family,”
said Greenslade. “I think he has found an extended family
with the Outlaws.”
The asset, once again, leaves his
huddle of teammates from the scrum, grabs the rugby ball and
heads down the pitch. The ball is tossed between teammates
until it comes back to Bryant, who makes a superman dive
into the try line, scoring five more points for the Outlaws.
The crowd cheers and eventually the Outlaws win the game
78 to zero. The team retreats from the pitch, tearing off
sweaty jerseys in celebration. The crowd of fans begins to
pack up while the Pet Helpers volunteer was able to raise
$71 for animals in need of adoption.
as ambassador all come together during a game of rugby on a
Saturday afternoon, reflecting on the accomplishments of the
“I'm so happy to have found a home in
Charleston,” said Bryant. “As a member of the Charleston
Outlaws RFC, I hope that I continue to be blessed with the
opportunity to help the sport and local charities grow.”
Article and photo by Army SSgt. Kimberly Calkins|
Maneuver Enhancement Brigade
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