By Amber Barker
He was the first in his family to graduate from college, and on Oct. 7 Bryant Wesco will be the first one in his family inducted into the Hall of Fame — a correlation not lost on him.
“Before my time on campus, my family had celebrated zero college graduates, and in the 20 years since then from our immediate family we’re over 20 degrees,” said Wesco, noting the degrees have spanned from technical college, to university, to obtaining master’s and working on doctorate degrees.
“The standard before was graduate high school, go find a job, and if I get to college great if I don’t that’s cool too. Now the standard is not graduating high school, college is the baseline.”
Wesco said his experience and the trickle-down effect not only changed his life but that of his entire family. So, when he thinks about being inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame next month, it’s no wonder his voice cracks and he gets choked up.
“That was part of the vision I had as a 21-year-old knuckle-headed idiot, and the fact that we are experiencing it now is priceless,” said Wesco, who becomes only the fifth track and field athlete to enter the Hall of Fame.
While Wesco jokingly pokes fun at himself with an unconventional term of endearment, he will be the first to say he had a lot of growing up to do and being a Tech athlete made sure he did.
“The biggest draw and thing I absolutely needed most at that time was that it was new and different from anything I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. The campus was massive to me, coming from where I came from and it was a big open space to figure out who I wanted to be as a student, person, athlete, and young man,” the five-time All-American triple jumper recalled.
“It helped put some distance between my family and myself, and I was able to experiment and figure out what I did and didn’t like and did it in a safe environment. I probably could’ve found all of this on another campus, but I found it here and fell in love.”
But donning the red and blue wasn’t part of Wesco’s original plan. It would surprise most to know the 11-time Sun Belt Conference long jump and triple jump champion dreamt of a different sport.
“I grew up wanting to be a basketball player; everything I had in my body was driving me to be the best basketball player I could be,” he recalled. “But by the time I was a senior in high school it didn’t happen. I didn’t have the skill or ability coaches were looking for, but at the same time I was a track athlete.”
But when his high school coach, Ulysses Frontha, who had previously attended Tech introduced Wesco to the university, the path changed. The rest is record-setting history.
“He was the one to help me make my way to Tech. If it wasn’t for him – the opportunity to get on campus and give it a go – that story doesn’t get written,” Wesco said.
“Once I was on campus Coach Stanley, Carmichael, and Jackson helped me become a track athlete and refocus on what I could be on the track. I still tried to go to the gym and spend hours on the court instead of track but eventually figured it out and repositioned myself as someone who could truly be dependent upon on the track.”
Wesco recalled coaches and members of the support staff who helped as he navigated figuring life out.
“They helped me learn some of the life lessons that were important to me – what it meant to be accountable, dependable, to push yourself beyond what you think your limits are; helped me learn how to deal with hardships and obstacles to getting injured and having to sit out, not making the grade this week,” he said, giving a nod to now Dean of Student Services & Academic Support Stacy Cunningham Gilbert who was Assistant Athletics Director for Academics during his tenure, as well as Coach Shawn Jackson.
“I probably wouldn’t have been as productive on the other side had I not had the support staff. That moment I realized I wasn’t going to be a basketball player, that moment was really tough – having someone to be there for me to guide me – if (Jackson’s) not my coach and not connected to me in a personal way I’m not sure that happens. He helped me make it through.”
Accolades galore are intertwined with Wesco’s name.
After all, he owns the Louisiana Tech record in the indoor triple jump, including seven of the top 10 marks in school history; holds the program record in the outdoor triple jump, and six of the top 10 marks in school history; and led the Bulldogs to the 1999 Sun Belt Conference Indoor Championship, while also being the national runner-up in the triple jump in 2000. Those honors, however, aren’t what came flooding to mind when he received the phone call from Louisiana Tech VP and Director of Athletics Dr. Eric Wood about the induction.
“I was just as speechless then as I am now; when you’re in the middle of it you don’t do the work for the acknowledgement, you just do what you have to do and work hard,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of kids preparing right now for college, so it doesn’t give me time to reflect and focus on me – but that phone call allowed me to reminisce. The first thing I thought about was my teammates, coaches, all the late nights, travel, laughs, tears, and all that goes into the body of work.”
Then he immediately started making phone calls to coaches and teammates.
“This honor and tribute is not singular; it doesn’t happen with me alone, but with an entire community helping prop me up and push me forward to get where we are now, and there’s still work to do,” he said.
“There are no words. I understand the significance and acknowledgment; understanding all that, it chokes you up and gets you all in the feels. We all had a part to play – if it wasn’t for challenging each other to get better, my story doesn’t happen.”
The induction ceremony will take place Friday, Oct. 7 on Karl Malone Court at the Thomas Assembly Center. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with the reception starting at 6 p.m. and the ceremony beginning at 7 p.m.
Tickets are still available. Ticket prices are $50 for one ticket or $400 for a table of eight. Any interested can click HERE.
To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE