Jamarei Bryant said he grew up in a crime and drug-infested south Phoenix neighborhood, refusing to give into his surroundings.
Now he’s giving back, as athletic director and head football coach at Skyline Prep, a Canyon Athletic Association school tucked away off of Baseline Road and 40th Street, building champions with kids who could have taken the same path he wouldn’t let himself go.
“I was able to beat the odds,” Bryant said.
He starred in football and track and field at South Mountain High School in the late 1990s, before playing defensive back at Phoenix College and gaining a football scholarship to Kansas.
It allowed him to get an education and to return home not just as a coach but an administrator, proof that nothing no matter how close he was to destructive paths would take him down.
“Because of the surroundings I grew up in, I knew what I didn’t want to be,” Bryant said. “I got a reality check. I would see dope fiends and crack heads. See what I didn’t want to be. My mom kept me on the right path and kept me focused. I wanted to play football.
“God blessed me with the talents and the speed to travel and work and make something out of myself. What I’m trying to do is give back to these kids, to be positive and work hard. One of the biggest things I teach these kids is that they’re responsible for their own actions. They seem to gravitate toward our message. Work hard and being respectful are the main things I teach kids here.”
It’s paying off.
Players have seen the benefits.
The 8-man football team is 5-1, clinching a first-round bye in the playoffs with the goal being to repeat as state champions. The state championship game is Nov. 13 at Phoenix Thunderbird High School.
“Here we build like a family,” said senior guard/defensive end Jason Hansen. “A lot of these guys we won a championship with last year. We went to places with just eight players, just enough to play the game. And knocked people off easily. We built a brotherhood. These are friends you’re going to have for life.
High school coach building teams in his community
Skyline Prep football coach Jamarei Bryant is building championship teams in the south Phoenix community he grew up in.
Richard Obert, Arizona Republic
“Coach Bryant has done a lot for all of us. When it comes to not just on the field field but off the field. If it meant like picking us up, no matter how far it was, he’d bring us to practice. Making sure we’re in our grade. He’d offer tutoring to us.”
Hansen is one of three team captains with Christian Herron (wide receiver/cornerback) and Jamari Scott (running back/linebacker), both seniors.
They’ve seen the impact Bryant has made.
“The biggest advice he’s give me is to work hard,” Scott said. “Don’t give up and get stuff done, don’t worry about anything else.”
CAA athletes compete in relative obscurity without the colleges scouting them the way the Arizona Interscholastic Association players receive recruiting attention. The AIA oversees most high school athletics for larger schools across the state.
“That doesn’t stop us from working hard and getting to where they are and try to be better,” Scott said.
Herron said that Bryant motivates him, because he knows that his coach was able to elude the traps of his surroundings.
“It’s tough,” Herron said. “When you focus on football and school, you don’t have much else to do. You go home and do homework, and study football.”
This is Bryant’s fourth year as the athletic director at Skyline Prep. He loves being at the school and making an impact any way he can on kids’ lives.
“I really commend these young men out here,” Bryant said. “Through all of the adversity they face, they still make it away to come out here and sacrifice everything they have for the betterment of our football program.
“We are small in numbers but we’re big in heart. They have all the heart in the world.”
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