Bryan Bresee will return to Maryland this week with a heavy heart following the passing of his sister, Ella.
But Clemson’s star defensive tackle won’t be alone.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, other members of the Tigers’ coaching staff and some players will get on a flight Tuesday morning to attend Ella’s funeral in the Washington, D.C. area, where Bryan’s family resides. Ella passed last week following an 18-month battle with brain cancer. She was 15 years old.
The Tigers have pushed their scheduled practice back later in the day in order to attend the service before flying back.
“Got a big group going up to really celebrate Ella’s life,” Swinney said during his call-in radio show Monday night. “This has been going on for 18 months, and obviously we were very hopeful. It was just the Lord’s time to bring her home. Bryan has been through a lot, and the team has been through a lot with him.”
Among the players who will be in attendance are senior defensive end K.J. Henry and quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, a roommate of Bryan’s. Uiagalelei said it was “great to see my brother” when Bryan returned to the team Sunday to get some practice time in. Bryan had been back home since his sister’s death and didn’t play in Clemson’s win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
Uiagalelei said he has talked to Bryan since he returned to Clemson but opted to keep the details of their conversation private.
“Haven’t seen him in a little bit, so it was great to hang out with him and just be able to chat with him,” Uiagalelei said.
Swinney and his players wore “Ella Strong” T-shirts before their last two games. Swinney kept his on during the game against Louisiana Tech. Even Tech coach Sonny Cumbie sported one before the game in memory of Bryan’s sister. Cumbie and his players also wrote letters to the Bresee family to express condolences for their loss.
Swinney said the situation has given him a chance to have a different kind of conversations with his players.
“This has given us an opportunity to have a lot of deep conversations that you don’t always get a chance to have with 18- to 22-year-olds,” Swinney said. “Just real life and helping them process things. Just having a lot of vulnerability in the room. There’s been some positives from it.
“I think some of these young men have gained a different perspective, and certainly Ella’s fight and her joy in the mindset of that fight I think has impacted everyone. She was just a blessing.”
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