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Thoughts of Love

Bulldogs reflect on letters to Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, family
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Thoughts of Love

Photo courtesy of Clemson Football
Louisiana Tech players wrote letters to Clemson star Bryan Bresee regarding the death of his teen sister.

The battle lines in football are ingrained in the game.

It’s a sport built on aggression. Dominate your opponent. Win at all costs. The other team is the enemy. There’s rarely any wiggle room for visible comradery and care between the white lines.

But the life of Ella Bresee was one of those rare and much-needed moments this past Saturday.

The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs traveled to Clemson, South Carolina, to take on the top-five Tigers in a rowdy road environment. But before the two teams took the field on Saturday, Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Bresee, and the entire program, was going through unspeakable pain.

Bryan’s 15-year-old sister Ella Bresee lost her battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer the Thursday before the Tigers hosted Tech. While Bryan didn’t play Saturday, his teammates and coaches wore gray t-shirts with the words ‘E11a Strong’ written across. But before the two teams would meet on the field, the Bulldogs were busy writing letters.

After Ella’s death was announced, Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie gathered his team together the night before playing Clemson and gave each player a piece of paper and asked them to send heartfelt messages of sympathy and prayer to the Bresee family. And each one wrote a message to Bryan Bresee and his family.

“One of things we talk about in our program is service,” Cumbie said Tuesday as he reflected on the effort to write letters. “How can we give? We want to be a program, players, and people that give and not just live in the mindset of take, take, take.”

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was handed the shoebox full of letters before he took to the postgame podium, with reporters expecting the usual game assessment and typical Dabo charm. But before questions were given, he wanted to thank Cumbie and the Bulldogs for their character and described himself as a ‘lifelong fan’ of Cumbie going forward.

“Man, I’m going to tell you, just as a human being, I was super encouraged tonight,” Swinney said Saturday after the game. “That’s everything good about college football. I’ve never met Coach Cumbie, but I’ll be a fan of his for his entire career.”

The two coaches did the unspoken ritual of greeting each other at midfield before the game, but this time was special.

Cumbie came onto the field wearing an ‘ E11A Strong’ shirt himself and handed Swinney his own letter for Brian. As Swinney walked off the field after the victory, he was handed the rest.

“We’re pretty big on writing letters just because it takes time to write letters,” Cumbie said. “It shows affection, and it shows some care that you write letters.”

Redshirt freshman Julien Lewis may have caught a career- best seven passes for 76 yards against Clemson but seemed coyer talking about his individual performance than the letters sent by the Bulldogs.

Football is just a game and Lewis was happy to see the type of response Cumbie and the program felt it needed to show on Saturday. A win over Clemson would have been nice but the love they could provide was greater in his mind.

“I know it’s hard losing a family member and I could just only imagine what [Bryan] was going through,” Lewis said Tuesday. “We were just letting him know that we were here for him. That’s the least we could do.”