Markus Bryant was a strong young man battling a severe bout with cancer of the nervous system. Like many young kids growing up in Grand Forks Markus was an avid Sioux fan and enjoyed watching games and visiting with his favorite players. During the 2001 Fighting Sioux Football season, Markus became an inspiration to the team by demonstrating his courage and unending faith by coming to practices even if it meant in his wheelchair immediately after a treatment. Markus would routinely lead the post-workout breakdown and spent a number of days during the 2001 season with the Sioux on game day. Markus also frequently wrote letters of encouragement to fire up his favorite team. One hand written note in particular touched the team after the season’s only loss as one strong statement within it said, ‘never give up’. The encouraging words in that note helped propel the team to winning the final 6 games of the season. On December 8th 2001, the team together with Markus made its way down to Florence Alabama, and won the 2001 Division II National Crown. As the team was celebrating on the podium at midfield, Markus was invited to share in lifting the trophy skyward in front of the cheering crowd.
During the 2002 season, tough times hit the Sioux Football team as they suffered a tough season enduring frustrating loses. Despite this, Markus continued his support, once again writing letters of encouragement and showing up to games when he was able. At the end of the season, the outgoing senior class was looking to leave a legacy and a positive impact within the program and Grand Forks, and not surprisingly Markus came to mind. Beginning on Nov. 17th 2002 a fundraiser was started to give back to young children like Markus who are battling serious illness and show courage in their everyday lives. The name of this fundraiser is called “Holiday Magic From Markus”, and is set up to raise money to go towards the purchase of Holiday gifts for the area children who are going to spend the winter Holidays in the hospital, or who are fighting these serious illnesses over the Holidays. The mission of this organization is to allow student athletes at UND a chance to impact a community and make a difference in the lives of area children.
Markus Bryant left a very lasting impact within Sioux Athletics as can be seen within the Fighting Sioux football program. The 2001-2002 season Head Coach, Dale Lennon reflected on Markus’ impact. “When I think of the 2001 National Championship Season, I can’t help but think of Markus Bryant. Many of the same qualities that Markus demonstrated in his fight against cancer were evident within that team. Markus wrote the 2001 football team a note that said “Never give up because then you will achieve your goals”. The 2001 team did just that – we never gave up! In memory of Markus, the 2002 Senior class established the Holiday Magic from Markus project which focused on bringing toys to children who were going through various medical treatments over Christmas. In the fall of 2003, a tree was planted in Markus’ Memory next to memorial stadium. Next to the tree is a plaque which reads “This tree grows in the memory of Markus J Bryant (1888-2002). His inspiration & dedication to Sioux Football created a lasting legacy of teamwork, a positive attitude and undying spirit – no matter what!” The plaque says it all on what Markus brought to the UND football team. In 2002, the team did not have an award that recognized determination, the ability to overcome adversity, the ability to be a positive influence within the Sioux Football program. Thus enters the Markus Bryant Award which has been awarded to the individual who best demonstrated those qualities during the season. In my mind, it’s the highest award presented at the annual banquet.”
-Dale Lennon, Head Coach 1999-2006
Lastly, an athletic endowment fund was started to aid in a scholarship for a Fighting Sioux football player each season.
It is evident why we recognize Markus as the 12th Man of the Fighting Sioux football program and why our passionate efforts of building a legacy of commitment, teamwork and perseverance within the program and the community, is of such importance.
Markus’ legacy will live on forever.