PETTICOAT JUNCTION — De'Angelo Bryant is coming home.
The former Silver Bluff great is returning to his alma mater to be the next head coach of the Bulldogs' football program, as announced Thursday at the school's "State of the Bluff" address.
"The best way I can put it into words is it's a tremendous honor," he said. "To be here as a player, to be able to walk these halls, and now to be able to grace the sidelines is just a tremendous honor. This community is extremely supportive and, like I said before, I want to be able to give back to a community that's given me so much and has shaped me into the person that I am today."
Bryant leaves an assistant coaching position at White Knoll to take over at Silver Bluff, a job that became available when Burton Able stepped down after two years on the job. Under Able, the Bulldogs went 8-13 with one playoff appearance.
Bryant was part of four region championships and two state championships – in 2000 and '01 – at Silver Bluff before playing college football at Wake Forest. A lot of those fond memories hit him as he drove up the hill to the school – and as he walked past team photos in the cafeteria from those championship seasons. He held up his title ring proudly as he addressed the crowd Thursday night.
One of the top things on his to-do list is to call Al Lown, his coach during his playing days with the Bulldogs. Lown retired following the 2015 football season.
"Coach Lown has been like a father to me, to be honest with you," Bryant said. "He was very instrumental in my development, stayed on me a lot, really pushed me, corrected me when I was right and when I was wrong. So I owe him a lot, especially more than anything the gratitude."
Bryant will lead the Bulldogs into an immediate future that includes a new region starting this coming season – Silver Bluff will be joined by Abbeville, Batesburg-Leesville, Fox Creek, Ninety Six and Saluda. Not to worry, Bulldogs fans – rival Barnwell will remain on the schedule as a non-region opponent.
An immediate goal is to simply get back to basics. Bryant wants his players to conduct themselves in a winning way and get back to the Silver Bluff way that he knew and lived as a player.
"It inspired me because we did things the right way, and I'm a firm believer in that," he said. "That's the way that I've coached since I've gotten into this business. So I'm a firm believer that when you set a standard, everything else is sure to follow.
"That's one of the things that I want to come back and have an opportunity to do, which is to be able to set the standard, get back to winning ways around here and carry out that mission that is the Bulldog tradition."