MAC inductee has local roots

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

N.Z. Bryant, Jr., has his roots deep in Lincoln County. TheBrookhaven native grew up here before launching a long,distinguished career in coaching and sports administration.

Bryant, a 1954 graduate of Alexander High School, will be amongfive new inductees to the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hallof Fame. The ceremony takes place Friday night at the Hilton Hotelin Jackson, just off County Line Road and I-55 North.

Joining Bryant in the distinguished group are Bobby Nelson,former basketball coach at McComb and South Pike; Greg Wall, formerBrookhaven football coach and current coach at South Pike; JerryBoatner, championship baseball coach at Clarkville and WestLauderdale; and the late Raymond Dean Faulkner, talented baseball,football and golf coach from Greenville St. Joseph.

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Bryant currently serves as Deputy Director with the MississippiHigh School Activities Association. He enjoyed a successfulbasketball coaching career at Lanier before working as assistantathletic director with the Jackson Public Schools System.

Bryant said he didn’t give the Hall of Fame induction mustthought during his career. “When you’re coaching you don’t thinkabout those things. I was busy enjoying my job.”

During his coaching career, Bryant’s record was 321-134. In1980, he entered the athletic administration as an assistantathletic director of Jackson Public Schools. Bryant managed the JPSathletic system with a budget of $600,000 for 10 junior highschools, 8 high schools and nearly 6,000 students with a staff of 2persons.

Bryant has served as MHSAA Deputy Director from 1991 totoday.

Bryant said he has enjoyed a rewarding life in coaching,teaching and administration. “Life has been great for me. My wifehas been very supportive.

“When you are coaching until late at night, your wife mustsupport you. My wife also was a school teacher. She always camehome and had the kids bathed and ready for bed.”

He worked with the late W.C. “Pop” Allen during the early yearsof integration, leading the Jackson Public School system’s athleticdepartment.

“I got to be athletic director. I need to thank W.C. (Pop) Allenfor helping me get started.” Allen, a Lincoln County native and aNew Sight resident, passed away several years ago.

Recalling a tumultuous period in Mississippi history, Bryantremembered some words of wisdom from Allen. “When we integrated,Pop told me how to treat the other coaches, get to know them and bea part of them. He always advised me to talk to the coaches beforemeetings. A lot of times you could explain things ahead of time andthey would go along with you.”

Bryant has two sisters living in Brookhaven. Theola Robinson isa retired teacher and his other sister is Learline Bryant.

“I’m fortunate to have a 91-year-old mother, Allie Mae Bryant.My two sisters are taking care of her.”

MHSAA Executive Director Dr. Ennis Proctor said Bryant has beenan asset to his staff. “He was the first one I hired when I came tothis job. He’s an outstanding individual. He is very deserving ofthis award.”

Proctor and Bryant have worked together for 12 years. “He’s astraight shooter and he has always supported the association,” saidProctor.

At Alexander, Bryant played forward for the late Coach C.O.Tanner.

“I was a basketball player.” said Bryant. “That’s all I did.That was before they had dunking. During the setshot days.” Heplayed two years at Alcorn State University.

Jesse Buie was the Alexander football coach at that time.

“We had a lot of good players at Lanier,” said Bryant. He wontwo state championships plus 5 city titles. compiling a 321-134record. “We came down to Brookhaven when it was integration timefor us. Everyone was so nice to us. The press was real good tous.”

Wall, 54. is known best for taking the South Pike Eagles to twostate football championships in 1989 and 1992. His Eagles wereClass 4A state runners-up last year.

A native of Liberty, he graduated from Liberty High School andwas selected as the Most Valuable Player and Most Athletic in theConfederate Conference. Wall is a graduate of Southwest andSouthern Mississippi.

The 30-year veteran coach, who also served as athletic directorat South Pike, coached at Brookhaven High from 1996-2000 beforereturning to South Pike to complete his career. He coached thePanthers to a 12-2 record in 1997.

Wall served as All-Star coach in the Bernard BlackwellMississippi High School All-Star game in 1981 and 1991. In 1990 and2002, he coached in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game, servingas head coach in June.

In 1989, Wall was selected as MAC Athletic Director of the Yearand was MAC Football Coach of the Year in 1992. He has been amember of the MAC since 1971.

Nelson has coached championship basketball at five differenthigh schools. A native of Liberty, he was honored as the MostValuable Player in basketball, salutatorian and selected as Mr.Gillsburg High School. He was an All-State basketball star atSouthwest and played at Mississippi College.

Nelson’s coaching career spans 30 years, beginning at North Pikein Summit. He coached basketball teams at Pearl and Holden, La.,before moving to McComb High in 1969.

His career came to an end at South Pike in Magnolia in 1992after moving there in 1979. Nelson’s teams competed in 990 gameswith a record of 734-256. Nelson guided his teams to 18 districttitles, 3 conference crowns, 4 South State championships and onestate crown. He was honored 6 times as Coach of the Year.

Nelson has served as MAC President in the 1979-80 term. He is anactive church member and has served on mission groups. He nowraises cattle, gardens and is a carpenter. In 1982, he was inductedinto the Southwest Hall of Fame.