My journey began in the winter of 1981 when I came into the world kicking and screaming. Greeting me at Sinai Hospital in Northwest Baltimore were my parents, Gladys and Cary Johnson and my older brother, Corey, who at the age of 13 had the honor of naming me Bryant. That day would be one of the few that we would spend together as a family. By the time I turned five, my parents were separating. The conclusion of their relationship marked the commencement of my journey from boy to man under the watchful eye of my single mother.
My mom’s plan to help me reach my potential and avoid the malaise and destruction of the Baltimore streets was two-pronged. I was to go to school every day and participate in organized activities every night. Part A of the plan began at Arlington Elementary for Pre-Kindergarten. After Pre-K, I attended Cross Country Elementary where I made the honor roll numerous times and had perfect attendance each year. Part B entailed me studying karate (earned a brown belt before eventually stopping to focus on football and track), playing tee ball then baseball in the Northwest Baseball League, as well Pop-Warner football for Woodlawn Recreation Center in the second grade. Activities remained the same until fourth grade when I stopped playing baseball and began running track for the Northwest Striders.
During middle school, the plan remained mostly intact while some friends began to fall prey to the streets, I persevered. I attended Fallstaff Middle School where once again I achieved perfect attendance and continued to make the honor roll. In addition to playing football and running track, I joined the school basketball league where I excelled. I developed my ear for music while playing trumpet in the concert and jazz bands for those three years as well.
High school took me from Northwest Baltimore to East Baltimore where I attended Baltimore City College. At City, I continued to be a three sport athlete participating in football, basketball, and track & field. Each of my teams shined, earning either local or regional titles. Academically, I continued to thrive making the honor roll multiple semesters. All of the hard work was rewarded, as I earned a football scholarship to play at the college of my choice. I decided to attend Pennsylvania State University because of its prestigious football program, tradition of academic excellence, and its vast alumni association worldwide.
At Penn State, I began perfecting my craft. As a true freshman, I earned immediate playing time. The early repetitions and tutelage from the legendary Joe Paterno would lead to many accolades. As a senior, I earned first team All Big Ten Football honors, which lead to being drafted #17 overall in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. I would conclude my Penn State journey after my second year with the Cardinals when I returned to campus to finish my credits and graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.
Thus far, my NFL career has spanned eight years. The first five seasons spent playing for Arizona. In 2008, I signed a 1yr free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Following that season, I signed my current 3 yr contract with the Detroit Lions.
All throughout my career, I have worked to repay the countless hours of self-less sacrifice by coaches, church members, and various men and women in my community. Without their compassion and efforts, my life could have easily gone another way. Beyond 80 Ways is the expression of my love and empathy
for children battling through difficult situations. I strongly believe that when youth are exposed to opportunities to explore their talents and capabilities, like my Mother made sure I was, they will thrive as I did. With a firm vision and tireless effort, Beyond 80 Ways will create and partner with programs that help unlock the hidden treasures of our young people.