Father’s cancer diagnosis brings defensive tackle English back to Texas

Father’s cancer diagnosis brings defensive tackle English back to Texas

Father’s cancer diagnosis brings defensive tackle English back to Texas
March 03
01:16 2016

Brady Keane | Staff Writer


DeSoto High School, the alma mater for new Mean Green defensive lineman Bryce English, is a local pipeline for football talent and sits just 45 miles from UNT.

But for the Mean Green’s newest redshirt freshman, the short trip turned into a long journey, both physically and emotionally.

English wasn’t on North Texas’ radar coming out of DeSoto in 2015, and he eventually signed with Kansas State University. Nine months later, English decided to come back to Texas for Thanksgiving break to spend time with his family.

That’s when English discovered that his father, Lee English, had been diagnosed with cancer.

“My family knew, but my sisters and I didn’t know,” English said. “Him telling me that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. I just teared up.”

In addition to the opportunity to be closer to home, North Texas provided a chance for English to play at the same school as his father. Lee was a fullback and four-year letterman for the Mean Green from 1978-1981 and played a big role in his son’s decision to join his alma mater.

North Texas also has a history with star defensive players from DeSoto. With Baltimore Ravens linebacker and former DeSoto standout Zach Orr talking North Texas up to English, the choice was simplified.

RTVF freshman Bryce English poses for a photo. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Media arts freshman Bryce English poses for a photo. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

“I just wanted to be closer to my dad and to be able to see him whenever he needed me,” English said. “Having other players like Orr and [Coach] Brandin Byrd in my corner throughout the whole process, it was really a no brainer.”

While his father’s cancer diagnosis played a big role in the future of his football career, it was English’s grandfather being diagnosed with cancer that impacted his decision to pick up a hobby: photography.

As a photographer, English’s grandfather did a lot of photo shoots with him before passing away.

“About two or three years later it just hit me, and I wanted to do photography,” English said. “I had friends in this area that were doing it, and I just bought into it. When you get the down time to do photography, you take it.”

Although a full-time student-athlete wouldn’t normally have time outside of class and football for another hobby, English has been out of a football player’s routine for the last year. He spent his freshman season at Kansas State as a redshirt, and after transferring from one NCAA FBS program to another, English is required by NCAA rules to sit out for one season.

Under that rule, he won’t be eligible to play until 2017.

However, there is a process in place that allows the NCAA to grant a “Family Hardship Waiver,” which would waive the yearlong waiting period. The rule has been debated over the past few years, but English and Littrell both have hope that he will be on the field in the upcoming season.

Even though his status for 2016 is up in the air, English became one of the first recruits in first year head coach Seth Littrell’s recruiting class. He gave the Mean Green a building point and momentum on the recruiting trial and brings both star power and skill to Denton.

“We’re excited about him,” co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler said. “We’ve got some phenomenal talent coming in here, and Bryce is one of many guys that we are extremely excited about.”

Whether the waiver is granted or not, English could have an immediate leadership role for the Mean Green. After becoming one of the first members of Littrell’s recruiting class, English almost immediately began recruiting for North Texas and served as a host for visiting recruits.

“It shows that he wants other guys around him,” Littrell said. “He wants this program to be built up, and he wants to set a solid foundation to win championships. We feel like he has a lot of great leadership qualities.”

With spring football rapidly approaching and the 2016 season not far behind, English will soon learn the fate of his appeal with the NCAA.

And while the journey to North Texas has been a long winding road, the road back to the field still lies ahead.

“It would be one of the biggest blessings I could get in life,” English said. “I’ve been out of football for so long after redshirting and I am already so hungry now, I am just taking it day by day. Hopefully the NCAA and God bless me with the opportunity to play.”

Featured Image: Media arts freshman Bryce English played at Desoto High School and was ranked a three-star recruit before being recruited by Kansas State University. Bryce English | Courtesy

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