KENNER, La. — While other Archbishop Rummel students were dancing at their prom on May 13 at the New Orleans Airport Hilton, Briston Guidry was less than five miles away doing something decidedly less exciting.
Instead of getting dressed in a tuxedo, hopping in a limousine and enjoying a high school ritual few would miss, Guidry laid on a couch in his living room, watching a movie with his mother.
“I’d rather just stay home and be with my family,” Guidry said during a recent interview in that same living room with SEC Country. “I don’t have much time left, so I’m soaking up all the time with them that I can.”
Guidry reports Saturday to Arkansas for summer workouts, a milestone that is both exciting and upsetting for the standout defensive tackle and his close-knit family.
“It’s gonna be different,” said Sandra Williams, Briston’s mother. “We’ve always been together, so to not have him here … that’s gonna be a big change for us.”
Guidry’s father was never part of his life, so he has grown especially close to his mother, aunt Jennifer Baxter, older sister Brittany and younger brother Tigga.
Williams is a parole officer in the New Orleans area, working specifically with juvenile offenders who have been adjudicated in the community. She’s held that job for 19 years — since Guidry was just 1.
Physically, Guidry grew up fast. He was always the biggest kid in school, a fact that sometimes caused problems. He was never a bully, but his bigger size made him uncomfortable and sometimes made other students think he was a bully or a troublemaker.
“He wasn’t a bad kid,” Williams said of her son. “He was just all over the place. Everyone really thought Briston was this big bully.”
Interestingly, in spite of his big size, Guidry didn’t immediately fall in love with — or even really excel at — football. When Guidry was 5 and his mom would drop him off at practice, he would cry and refuse to leave the car.
“Those boys would hit me, and I didn’t like being hit,” Guidry said with a grin.
Guidry’s issues with other kids — most of which stemmed from his size — resulted in him switching between public schools several times during his middle school years. For high school, however, Williams enrolled her son at Archbishop Rummel, hoping to expose him to a different set of influences.
“It was good for him to go over there to get an opportunity to see another side,” Williams said. “To see how other people live, rather than just stay in your neighborhood. He was able to meet kids from all over with different backgrounds.”
At Archbishop Rummel, Guidry also began to use his size to his advantage on the football field. He became a star defensive tackle and Archbishop Rummel’s first-ever three-time All-State selection.
Guidry was a four-star prospect and the No. 299 overall player in the 2016 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He initially committed to Mississippi State during the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons, but flipped to Arkansas in April 2015.
He also collected scholarship offers from major college football powers like Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma.
All the while, though, Briston Guidry never stopped being a momma’s boy.
Guidry calls and Facetimes his mom randomly through her work days, a habit he admits is at least partially fueled by concern for her safety.
Williams’ job forces her to make home visits into some rough areas, and when that subject came up during the interview, Guidry’s upbeat, happy mood changed noticeably.
“Everybody’s got guns now,” he offered quietly.
Is that why he wants to be in constant contact with her?
“Yeah,” the suddenly melancholy Guidry responded.
During Archbishop Rummel games, Guidry had an uncanny ability to always find his family in the crowd, even if they arrived after the game had begun.
“After the games, I would always tell them exactly when they showed up,” Guidry said proudly. “I could tell, ‘You came with two minutes left in the second,’ or ‘You showed up with three minutes left in the first.’”
Spotting four specific people in the crowd might be a little tougher in Arkansas’ 72,000-seat Donald W. Reynolds Stadium or other SEC venues, but Guidry’s family vows to make it to as many of his games as they possibly can.
“It’s always gonna be a family thing,” said Baxter, Guidry’s aunt. “But it is pretty surreal that Briston’s gonna be gone.”
Guidry will have an opportunity to compete for immediate playing time on Arkansas’ defensive line, although he readily acknowledges that — for the first time in years — he won’t be able to simply out-talent the guy lined up across from him.
But that’s nothing compared to the off-the-field changes in store for Guidry when he reports to Fayetteville this weekend.
“Being away from his family is gonna be a big adjustment for him,” said Archbishop Rummel defensive line coach Joey Boh. “I actually told the Arkansas coaches recently, ‘You all have gotta treat him like family.
“‘He’s gonna need a little special nurturing because he’s gonna get homesick real quick.’”
And that is why it was no surprise that while classmates basked in the prom, an event almost no senior misses — especially one as popular and outgoing as Guidry — he lounged at home with his mom.
“This is my big baby,” Williams said, leaning over to hug her son.
“When he stayed home that night, I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness. This is gonna be really hard when he leaves.’”
Arkansas beat writer Jason Kersey is visiting several 2016 Razorback signees before they report to campus later this month. Here is a look at past stories in the Up Next series:
- What has kept Arkansas signee Briston Guidry from being complacent? ‘I just love the game too much’
- After stellar senior season, Arkansas linebacker signee De’jon Harris could have a role on offense
- Why quarterback Cole Kelley chose Arkansas’ offense instead of a more familiar system at Oklahoma State
- Arkansas running back signee Devwah Whaley excited for journey with new ‘brothers’