When he is not busy tending to the town of Wendell’s basic infrastructure needs as public works director, Alton Bryant keeps a paternalistic eye out for #92 for the Cleveland Browns
Q: Obviously, your job as public works director for the town of Wendell keeps you busy, but you also stay busy traveling the east coast to attend professional football games.
A: “My son, Desmond, is in his second season playing for the Cleveland Browns. He is number 92, right defensive end.”
Q: That must be exciting, having a child that plays for the NFL. Were you an athlete?
A: “I played football my senior year in high school – that is it.”
Q: How did your son’s path to the NFL begin? Any other athletes in your family?
A: “My sons (including Desmond’s older brother, Alton Jr. and his younger brother, Brenton) started playing football when they were very young and we were living in Illinois. They started playing when they were 6. Desmond and Brenton were recruited and went on to play football at Harvard. I never imagined the level of interest that Desmond would receive in high school (East Bladen High School-southern part of the state). We had never dreamed of it. But my son was given advice that I think has proven true – ‘if you are good, they will find you.’ Desmond started out playing for the Oakland Raiders and played with them for four years. This is his second season with Cleveland.”
Q: Do you get a chance to go to many games?
A: “When they were playing at Harvard together, we went to as many as we could. Now that Desmond is in the NFL, we try to make the games that are close by. We go when they play Jacksonville (Jaguars) and Atlanta (Flacons). They are playing the Panthers this weekend so we are going to try and make that game.”
Q: And you have a daughter?
A: “She is the youngest (Lashonda). She graduated from ECU.”
Q: You are from the Bladen County area of North Carolina but your career has taken you all over the country, correct? What type of career did you have your sights set on?
A: “I grew up in East Arcadia, which is about 30 miles from Elizabethtown. I was a hands-on kind of kid growing up. I liked the outdoors and I liked trying to figure out how things worked. Math was one of those subjects that just naturally appealed to me. After high school, I went on to attend North Carolina A&T in Greensboro. I majored in mechanical engineering. Prior to graduation, I had a chance to take part in a summer internship. I worked with the Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America. I was sent to Texas the summer before I graduated. I worked in the marketing and production end of the business. I worked on and off-shore in the Gulf of Mexico. I did spend some time on the oil rigs – working in measurement. I continued to work for them after I graduated in 1981.”
Q: So you stayed in Texas for a while?
A: “I worked for them for five years. I was then reassigned to their headquarters in Chicago and I worked there for 10 years.”
Q: Did you attempt to settle down during all this transition?
A: “I did get married while I was in Texas, to my wife, Lillian, who I had met while I was in high school.”
Q: So you stayed in Chicago for a while? Is there anything you miss about living in a large city?
A: “Chicago was a really rich area culturally. We lived about 25 miles from downtown Chicago. We thought it was ideal for a growing family. We would always take in what the area had to offer – museums, theatre, the aquarium. I then took a job with another gas company and we moved to Delaware. We lived there for eight years.”
Q: What brought you back to North Carolina?
A: “Our family. We wanted to be closer to them. My wife’s mother was not doing well. When we moved back to Bladen County, I took a job that is very similar to the job I do here in Wendell.”
Q: Why not stay in Bladen County? What brought you to Wendell?
A: “I found out about the position here and we thought the idea of moving to Wake County was a good one. This area is attractive, in that it has a lot to offer. We moved here in 2008, and we live in Zebulon.”
Q: When you are not overseeing Wendell’s public works, or attending NFL games to watch your son, what are your hobbies?
A: “Truthfully, I just enjoy spending time with family.”
Q: Do you have lots of brothers and sisters?
A: “I do. I have five brothers and two sisters. They are all in North Carolina but one, so I look forward to spending time with them over Christmas.”
Correspondent Dena Coward