When you got to do what you got to do

Published 12:34 pm Monday, October 1, 2018

I’ll be another year older next month. I won’t say how many – but some of you who know me personally may have figured that magic number out.

I enjoy my job, the work, my co-workers – everybody and everything is wonderful. I like to say with age, as the cliché goes, comes wisdom. But by continuing to work at this age I also have to note my future professional ‘presence’; my sort of mortality of work. That’s the place where, sooner or later as we grow older, we all reach a point that when we take stock of ourselves, we wonder if we’re steering closer and closer to being, well, obsolete or unnecessary. That’s also when you start looking over your shoulder at those ‘young bucks’ that are a little closer in the rear-view mirror.

That’s what I thought about this week when I heard Clemson quarterback – make that, ‘former’ Clemson quarterback – Kelly Bryant’s decision to transfer out of the program after being informed he had lost his starting job to freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence.

Last week, the Tigers were in a tight game with Georgia Tech and Bryant was struggling. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney called on Lawrence and all of a sudden, the ‘kid’ tosses three quick touchdown strikes and the game became a blowout. Mind you, just two weeks earlier, Lawrence was struggling against a much-better Texas A&M team, and it was Bryant who bailed the team out in a game of greater significance. Experience over youth.

Bryant survived a lot in Tigertown. He sat for two years behind Deshaun Watson while the Tigers won a national championship. He next earned the starting job when Watson went to the pros. He went 12–2 his first season, made the College Football Playoff, and did everything that was asked of him by his coaches.

Then someone better shows up.

It didn’t take long to realize Lawrence was a once in a generation talent. So, then it became a case of how long Bryant could fight off the charge using his combination of experience, savvy, and physical gifts.

Bryant lost that fight this week. On Monday, Swinney announced that Lawrence would start Clemson’s next game at Syracuse. Bryant was understandably upset, so Swinney gave him Monday off. When Bryant didn’t practice Tuesday, it was obvious something was coming.

Wednesday the news broke that Bryant had decided to take advantage of the NCAA’s new redshirt rule which allows players who have played four or fewer games in a year to save a season of eligibility. This will allow Bryant, who graduated in May, to transfer to another school and use the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule to play next season. Russell Wilson did something similar going from NC State to Wisconsin, but the rule has since been refined.

The truth is, Swinney isn’t wrong here, and neither is Bryant. They’re both doing what’s best for them. Swinney’s job is to put the team in the best position to win. Bryant’s job is to play as well as he can and manage his college eligibility the most prudent way possible.

Swinney could have chosen to be a bad guy this week, but he didn’t. By making the decision early like he did, Bryant gets an extra year of eligibility; it just won’t be in Orange and White.

Bryant is understandably upset, but he took it reasonably well. He made those feelings known to a local newspaper.

“On my side of it, I feel like I haven’t done anything to not be the starter. I’ve been here, worked, and I waited my turn. I’ve done everything y’all have asked me to do, plus more. I’ve never been a distraction. I’ve never been in trouble with anything. To me, it was kind of a slap in the face.”

And this is where my earlier point comes into play, because it’s going to help Bryant later in life. The decision wasn’t a slap in the face, because the job description wasn’t doing what they asked, not being a distraction, nor staying out of trouble. The job description was being the best quarterback on the roster.

Sometimes your best isn’t good enough for the job that has to be done.

Bryant now gets to choose his next school, and I hope he remembers the object lesson here: the current job description, no matter where you go, is going to be the same; he’ll still have to be the best quarterback on the roster. Just like my job description is being the best sportswriter and newswriter I can be here at the News-Herald.

Because no matter what in life you choose to do, there’s always someone younger, hungrier and maybe better coming to take your spot. Don’t look over your shoulder, Bryant. As the great Satchel Paige once said, ‘they may be gaining on you.’


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.