As Ole Miss linebacker Serderius "Bird" Bryant left the field on a stretcher during the fourth quarter of the Rebels' 41-38 loss to Texas A&M, he raised both arms and gave a double thumbs up to the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd.
His mother sat watching in her Sanford home, clinging to every word on the TV screen.
Moments earlier, Bryant, a former Sanford Seminole High star, was knocked unconscious after lowering his head to make an open-field tackle on Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. The quarterback's knee appeared to hit Bryant in the neck area and he crumpled to the ground. Athletic trainers on the field immediately motioned for a stretcher.
"It was a pretty bad hit, I just thought, 'Wow, that's my child,'" said Shonda Bryant, who tries to make it to as many games as possible in Oxford, Miss., but did not attend the Texas A&M game. "I just got on my knees and prayed and cried and I'm just hoping for the best results. I think he'll be OK, but I'm not going to be OK until I know for sure and see for myself."
As she spoke late Saturday, she was already making plans to travel to Oxford early Sunday morning to see her son. Serderius Bryant is a junior linebacker and the Rebels' leading tackler this season. He had 11 tackles before leaving Saturday night's game.
Shonda Bryant talked to her son briefly just before he was taken to the hospital for tests.
"My niece is from Oxford and she was right there with him and gave him the phone and so I was able talk to him," she said. "He said he was OK, but that’s nothing until he gets results from the hospital. We'll probably be on our way there soon."
Immediately after Serderius Bryant was taken from the field, his mother was frantically dialing members of the Ole Miss staff, trying to get updates about her son. Coaches and athletic trainers began calling her back to let her know that things were looking positive.
"He was complaining about neck and back pain and they were taking him to the hospital for testing," Shonda Bryant said. "Hopefully there is no spinal injury and they'll also check for a concussion.
"He was pretty much knocked out on the field, and he finally got responsive and moved his feet and hands."
Serderius Bryant was the Sentinel's Central Florida defensive player of the year as a senior after the 2010 season and was ranked No. 10 in the Sentinel's 2011 Central Florida Super60. The 5-foot-9, 215-pounder was named to the All-SEC Freshman team after his first season at Ole Miss.
Manziel led the Aggies to the game-tying touchdown shortly after Bryant left the field, and the Aggies would eventually win on a 33-yard field goal as time expired.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun