Larenz Bryant is no stranger to the spotlight.
The four-star linebacker and South Carolina commitment enjoys the publicity that comes with being a sought-after high school football prospect.
He has done a good job keeping a level head through the attention and accolades, his coach and mother say.
“I’m thankful for it,” Bryant said. “You stay humble and don’t act like you’re the best at all times. You let your actions on the field show that. Off the field you are a regular person, go to class on time and be a regular kid as much as possible.”
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The spotlight found Bryant again on Thursday as he received his official invitation to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in front of hundreds of his Vance High School classmates.
Bryant’s Cougars were ousted Friday night in the N.C. state football playoffs, but Thursday’s news guarantees he’ll have two more games. He will play in next month’s Shrine Bowl in Spartanburg, followed by the U.S. Army game in January in San Antonio.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder was a workhorse on both sides of the ball for Vance. This season he had 89 tackles, 11 sacks and four fumble recoveries as a linebacker. He was also the star tailback, amassing 1,723 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
His college future is on defense, and Rivals.com rates him the No. 50 player in the country and second-best inside linebacker.
“He’s been on the front of magazines. He’s flown all over the country,” said Vance coach Keith Wilkes. “He’s definitely kept a level head.”
Wilkes estimated that every major FBS program has been to Vance to meet Bryant, watch him play or practice, and seek to secure his football future on the collegiate level. With more than 15 scholarship offers, including Alabama and Oklahoma, Bryant chose the Gamecocks over Clemson, Georgia and Florida.
“I love South Carolina,” he said. “The football team is wonderful. The coaches are wonderful. The fan base is extraordinary. South Carolina is where I wanted to be the whole time.”
South Carolina is where Bryant’s life started. He was born in Charleston and still has family in the Palmetto State. His mother, Stephanie Bryant, put him sports at the age of 5 after his father died.
Larenz has always exceeded her expectations in athletics, she said, but she’s more proud of his actions off the field. He recently spoke to local elementary schoolchildren with a message of “stay in school and keep working hard.”
“He understands this is a lot, but at the same time it doesn’t get to his head,” Stephanie Bryant said. “He motivates and he gives back. He understands what it takes to get there and he encourages other people.”
Bryant’s selection to the U.S. Army game is a testament to his hard work, focus and dedication the last four years, Wilkes said, but there’s still a hunger for more success.
“It’s very special,” Bryant said. “I’ve still got goals. There are more accomplishments to go.”
Larenz Bryant accolades
... June 25: Committed to South Carolina
... July 5-8: Linebacker MVP at Nike’s The Opening, a national football combine in Oregon
... Oct. 10: Shrine Bowl selection for N.C. team
... 2012 season: Named conference defensive player of the year
... Thursday: Recognized for U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which is played on Jan. 5, 2013, in San Antonio, Texas
... Bryant is a consensus four-star prospect. Here’s where he ranks across the four major recruiting services.
... Rivals: No. 50 overall, No. 2 inside linebacker
... 247Sports: No. 54 overall, No. 6 outside linebacker
... Scout: No. 101 overall, No. 7 outside linebacker
... ESPN: No. 236 overall, No. 8 inside linebacker
Bryant is the lone South Carolina commitment slated to play in the U.S. Army game. Linebacker Matt Rolin of Ashburn, Va., and defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin of Hoschton, Ga., will take part in the Under Armour All-America game.