Originally Published: Dec 14, 2009 10:44 PM CDTKyle Dierking
COWETA, Oklahoma -- She's gifted with natural talent and grace that runs in the family. But unlike the Bryan men, Jenni is a bruiser on the Coweta hardwood instead of the gridiron.
"Physically I'm tough, but inside of me I'm not tough. I'm pretty much a big baby," said Bryan, a Coweta senior.
Bryan was bred with that headstrong exterior, but nothing could prepare her for the death of her father, former University of Oklahoma All-American and Coweta's favorite son, Rick Bryan.
"With Ricky it's a little bit different because he's such a hero to this town," said Coweta basketball coach Krista Binam. "Anywhere she goes she's reminded of him. That makes it a lot harder, but it also speaks a lot more of how she's handled the situation."
"It's either you mature or drop to a lower level than what you were," Bryan said. "I choose to be more mature about it, grow up a little bit and say this is part of life. Me and my dad, he was my bestfriend."
There are several stories to describe the father-daughter bond between Rick and Jenni Bryan but perhaps the most memorable anecdote was when a thousand pound bale of hay fell on Jenni. Rick was there just seconds later and saved her life.
"He ran around the trailer and hit it so hard - his adrenaline was rushing so hard - that it flipped twice,” Bryan said. “The day after I thought about it; I was like, 'wow he just totally hit that with one shoulder and knocked it clean off of me.'"
Just recently, her brother Mike provided another, gentler nudge, encouraging her to sign on and play basketball at Oklahoma State.
"I'd rather stay here and help on the farm but he said, 'no you have to go,'" Bryan said. "I really don't have a choice. It's going to be tough on me to move away from home and not having my dad here to say, 'suck it up and go you big baby.' It's going to be tough for me but I'll make it."
Of course she will. She's already got that tough part down.