He's got game and then some

man in texas state football uniform

He's Got Game and Then Some

by Mark Wangrin

Bryan London II tackles athletics and academics with extraordinary ability

When it comes to football, alumni are usually easy to spot. They are the ones who sit in the stands at games and cheer, occasionally make sizable gifts to the school endowment, and never miss an opportunity to voice their opinion on the validity of that last third-down play call.

They are not supposed to lead the team in tackles.

When Bryan London II wrapped up his career as the school’s all-time leading tackler, the inside linebacker earned a bachelor of business administration degree inmanagement from Texas State University in August 2018. Upon graduation, he continued to play football and took post-baccalaureate classes.

“One thing my parents always stressed was that if I stopped playing football tomorrow, I would have an education,” London II says. “That (graduation ceremony)was probably the proudest I’ve ever seen them.” Asked what he plans to do with the degree, he says, “Management consulting — growing and developing leadership.”

It certainly fits, but it’s not the obvious field, the one that combines his schoolwork with his life and football experiences. He doesn’t need a degree to be an expert on that topic. He’s lived it. “One thing my parents always said was to be open-minded,” London II says. “In your comfort zone, nothing great happens.”

The son of Bryan London, a retired U.S. Army sergeant first class and medical inspector general, and Kimberly London, a nurse consultant at San Antonio Military Medical Center, London II has lived in New York, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.

“Early on, I asked him a question,” says his father. “ ‘Do you want to be ordinary or extraordinary?’ He said, ‘Dad, I want to be extraordinary.’ So, I said, ‘OK, what is the difference? It’s extra. That’s what it means, son. You must put in the extra time, the extra work to be extraordinary. You can’t just wake up like that.’ ”

London II gravitated to football at age 7 and has played offensive line, defensive line, quarterback, running back, linebacker, kicker, and punter. He chose Texas State right out of high school and would go on to become a three-time team captain and a 2018 Academic Achievement winner.

As a Bobcat player, he has started 47 of 48 games and led or ranked second on the team in tackles in 26 of them. The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder has only missed one start in his career because of a hit he put on someone else. In the second half of a 2018 game against Georgia State University, he was ejected for targeting — leading with the crown of his helmet on a tackle. By rule, he had to sit out the first half of the following game against Appalachian State University, ending his string of 33 consecutive starts.

Right from the cradle, the Londons stressed that their son would have every opportunity to be more than his parents. If that was what he wanted, he would have to earn it. It began from the moment his father filled out the birth certificate and he documented his son’s name as Bryan London II instead of Bryan London, Jr.

bryan london in graduation gown and cap

“Bryan London 2.0 — an improved version of him,” says London II. His dad offers up a deeper explanation. “You have a Whopper and you have a Whopper Jr. What is a Whopper Jr.? A smaller version of a Whopper,” he says. “I always told him, ‘Mom and I will never be upset at you for being more accomplished or successful than us. That’s what we want you to be.’ ”

Kimberly London agrees. “We’re a united front here. His dad talked to him about football, getting better, and making everyone around him better. I talked to him more about grades and girlfriends, because I needed to know what his circle was like. When it comes to grades or Twitter, I’m the helicopter mom.”

Before his junior year in high school, London II wanted to work with a trainer. His mother said they would provide one “that didn’t break the bank.” They found a trainer who fit that criteria and also had time at 5 a.m. for the workout. His dad recalls how some nights before turning in he got up to turn off the outside lights and lock the doors only to notice his son still outside, working out.

A two-star (out of five) recruit, London II was lightly recruited out of Randolph Field ISD, with a high school of about 470 students on Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. He only appeared on Texas State’s radar because of his persistence. Every day he would take time between class to send emails with links to his recruiting video to coaches, hoping to pique their interest. “It was really hard,” London II recalls. “Randolph is a Class 3A school, and if you’re a recruiter you have to want to go there. You can’t just walk on an Air Force base.”

When Texas State finally called, his life changed. “To hear my parents tell it, I was so excited I was slurring my words, not making sense.” Despite redshirting as a freshman, he took the time to turn all the feelings of rejection into positive energy — eventually emerging outof preseason camp in 2016 as a starter at inside  linebacker.

“When I’m sitting at Bobcat Stadium watching Bryan make one tremendous tackle after another, I don’t see the No. 9 or the helmet and pads. I see the mature young man I met in my class doing what he will likely do for the remainder of his life: leading those around him toward excellence,” says Dr. Ronald Angelo Johnson, associate professor in the Department of History.

“I knew Bryan as a student before I recognized him as an athlete. He took my early U.S. history class at Texas State. It’s not an easy course. Bryan was a standout — as he’s become on the football field — in a class of 120 students. Bryan sat on the third row, in the middle, right in front of me,” Johnson says. The professor recalls London II as an exemplary student — prepared for class, always on time, engaged in lectures, and one who he could count on to contribute to class discussions.

“I am impressed with how dedicated he is to Texas State,” the elder London says. “He said, ‘Dad, I have unfinished business here. I want to be part of turning the program back around, making it a winning program.’ I would tell everybody he’s a Bobcat. There’s no doubt about his allegiance.”

When head coach Jake Spavital came to Texas State in November 2018, he knew who Bryan London II was. “Bryan was my first phone call, to introduce myself and make sure everything was good-and-go from there, because of glowing recommendations I’d gotten from other people.”

London II says he found the coach to be “… genuine. We just rapped on the phone for an hour or so, even though he had so much to do. I thought, ‘This is someone who cares.’ ” Spavital also challenged him. “We told him, ‘We’re going to turn the heat up on you. We’re going to put you in pressure situations, try to make you improve as a player and person,’ ” Spavital says. “You just root for a kid like that.”

As his instructor, Johnson noticed that London II would lead the other student-athletes through his actions. “His teammates fed off his energy in class. They became better students because of him. It’s amazing! I watch the football games and notice his teammates still feeding off Bryan’s energy and enthusiasm to succeed. I loved telling people in the stands, ‘He was my student!’ ”