Oklahoma State Student-Athlete Spotlight: Jenni Bryan
January 19, 2011
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
When most students think of Stillwater, Okla., they think of a smaller town in the state of Oklahoma. But when Oklahoma State freshman guard Jenni Bryan thinks of Stillwater, she thinks it's a pretty big city.
Bryan grew up in Coweta, Okla., which is a small town just outside of Tulsa.
"They are both country towns, Stillwater is a lot bigger than where I am from," Bryan said. "There are about 2,000 people in Coweta. In my town there is not a lot to do, so you kind of just have to entertain yourself. Here (in Stillwater) there is a lot to do."
Bryan didn't have trouble keeping busy during her years in Coweta. She was a major part in helping around her family's farm. Although she is in season now, she still tries to go back and help as much as possible.
"It is tough," Bryan said. "This time of season it is snowing and we are trying to put hay out, but our hay is frozen so we have to bust the ice off those, and our pond it frozen so we have to bust it too. It is kind of difficult because you can get stuck and the four-wheel drive goes out. There is always something that happens. It is tough during the season to get back home and help. I've gotten to go home maybe once every three weeks."
Running the family farm isn't the only way that Bryan would keep entertained while in Coweta, she is also an avid noodler.
"It is very heart-rushing," Bryan said. "You go underneath the water and stick your hand in a hole. Your eyes are closed and you can't see anything, you just know that something is going to come up and bite you. You just have to hope it's a fish and not a turtle. Once it bites you it is like wrestling, it's a challenge. It is competitive, and I like it. The season is about a month and a half. It starts at the beginning of June and lasts until probably the middle of July."
Even though Bryan loves the sport of noodling, she has encountered some dangerous situations.
"About two years ago the water was up and we had scuba-diving gear on," Bryan said. "So I jumped out of the boat and my weights were on and I didn't have my mouth piece on so it shot me to the bottom of the river and I couldn't breathe.
I was trying to find my mouth piece and it wasn't on, so I was trying to grab my hose and pull myself back up to the boat. About that time, my dad jumped in and pulled me up and brought me to the side. It was so deep, he stood and held my feet straight up and my hose barely out of the water so I could breathe. He was my hero."
This wasn't the only time that Bryan's father came to her rescue. A year before that Bryan had another near-death experience.
"Three years ago a bale of hay fell on me and those weigh like 2,000 pounds," Bryan said. "He didn't know it had dropped on me. I was underneath it and my arms were about to give out. He saw the hay barely propped up and he ran around the hay trailer and knocked it off me. It would have probably killed me."
Rick Bryan, Jenni's father, was a three-time All-American at the University of Oklahoma and played nine seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons. Rick passed away during the summer of 2009.
With the absence of her father, she has taken more leadership with taking care of the farm.
"I will always go back home to dad's farm," she said "I will always be there to take care of it."
Bryan's father wasn't the only athlete in the family. She comes from a traditional athletic background.
"My dad was a three-year All-American and played nine years in the NFL, my brother went to the University of Tulsa and played there and my sister plays sports in high school, but didn't want to play in college," Bryan said. "My whole family is just big into sports."
Not only is her family athletic, but they make sure to support everyone in their different sports.
"My mom, dad, sister and brother were always there at our sporting events," she said. "My family is here every game. It is fun. I don't know what I would do without my family. I probably wouldn't be here playing basketball. If I came out here and had no one in the stands supporting me, it wouldn't be the same. Fans have a lot to do with it. If you don't have someone here supporting you, it isn't fun."
Her father instilled a strong athletic sense in her at a young age and was always pushing her to stay interested in sports.
"It is just fun to be a part of something that is bigger than you," Bryan said. "And when you know that there is something out there that is bigger than yourself, you want to try and be a part of it. My dad was always really competitive and would say that playing sports is a big part of life and you are missing out if you don't want to play them."
Bryan's father, being a Sooner, wanted her to go to OU, but she had her heart set on OSU at a young age.
"Since I was little I always wanted to come here," Bryan said. "My dad would try and change my mind to OU, but I always had my decision stuck to OSU. They called me one day, my heart was just there. This is where I wanted to go."
At Coweta High School, Bryan averaged 17.3 points and 11.2 rebounds per game as a senior, but has realized the hard transition from high school to Division I basketball.
"In high school I was more of a post," she said. "I didn't have to guard as much, it was just kind of handed to me and I could do whatever I wanted to do. We could win with just one person. Here, that is not going to happen. If you go in the paint, they are just going to throw you down and laugh at you. They are going to stuff you. Playing Duke was probably my first experience of playing against something like that. It shocks you at first. People are trying to say how you don't know how tough Division I basketball is, you have an idea, but you really don't know until you are in it."
During her freshman season, she has played in every game and is averaging 4.3 points a game. Although the transition has been hard, she is happy to be at OSU and is always ready to do the work.
"It is a challenge," Bryan said. "Every day in practice it is just like a game, but harder. You come in every day and work hard and harder. It is constantly doing something. When you put so much time into something, you want to get something out of it. That's how I live my life."