Behind the Jersey Number: Matt Bryant

Kicker Matt Bryant is the Atlanta Falcons' all-time leading scorer.

One of the many great sights on NFL game days is watching countless Falcons fans fill the Georgia Dome and away stadiums, wearing the jersey of their favorite player, which got us to wondering if the players have a specific reason why they're wearing the number that is on the front and back of their jersey. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant wears jersey No. 3, because of an unforgettable family bond.

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Those who view NFL kickers as not being tough certainly haven't met Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, who at age 39 is physically tough, (5-foot-9, 203 pounds), mentally tough, never fearing any of his 17 career game-winning field goals (eight with the Falcons) and more importantly, emotionally tough, proven every time he looks in the mirror and sees jersey No. 3.

The former Bridge City High School (Texas) middle linebacker/kicker made his way into the NFL with a tough, hard-nosed mentality, including stops at Trinity Valley Community College and later Baylor University, before signing with the New York Giants as a free agent in 2002.

Wearing jersey No. 8 for the Giants and later with the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins in 2004, Bryant finally got the No. 3 jersey he wanted, after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005 and wearing it in this his sixth season with the Falcons. Fittingly for a kicker, Bryant says the decision to wear No. 3 appears simple, but runs much deeper, thanks to a matchless love for his family. 

"I kick field goals, but you can take that further, because all of my kids," Bryant said. "My eight-year-old son Trey, then our son Tryson, who passed away at three-months old from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and our three-year-old twins, Triton and Isabella Tristan, each have a form of three in their names."

There are simply no words that can describe the pain a parent suffers, losing a child. Bryant and his wife, Melissa, faced their worst nightmare in 2008, when Tryson didn't wake up from his sleep. Bryant says the death of a child leaves feelings and emotions that never go away, but some days are more tolerable than others, helped by unforgettable memories of each of his children.

"When our son Trey was born, he spent three weeks in the NIC (neonatal intensive care) Unit," Bryant said. "His first game that he came to was against Philadelphia in 2006 and I had three field goals, each worth three points, of course, and the third one was a 62-yarder, which is the third-longest field goal in history. That was a truly special moment."

Bryant isn't one to look for accolades and attention, but following Tryson's passing, he found the inner strength to continue kicking field goals, later honored in 2008 by the Pro Football Writers of America with the Halas Award, which goes to the individual in the NFL who overcame the most adversity to succeed during a season.

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