He won't call it an identity crisis, but Blaise Bryant wonders if he hasn't left parts of his real self behind. Everywhere he goes, people give him quizzical looks. They size up his high-rise, flattop lobster-tail haircut and they ask, "How did you wind up here?"
And "here" can be Iowa corn country, the surfing beaches of Southern California, the end zones of the Big Eight Conference—even his own living room, where he sits like a stranger among contemporary furniture and abstract art.
"Gypsies," he says with a grin. "My parents are gypsies."
They aren't, of course. They are more like an idealized TV family. The Bryants have lived for the last 2� years in an elaborately landscaped, shake-shingled house on a cul-de-sac in an expensive subdivision of Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles. The sleek table sculptures and abstract paintings were created by Blaise's father, John, a data processing director with two master's degrees, in business administration and art. The house and its tasteful decor are otherwise the province of Blaise's mother, Frances, a former teacher who now divides her time between housekeeping and volunteer work.
Bryant, who would sooner shave his head than be mistaken for what he calls a "fake yuppie type," tries to distance himself from his parents' success. "Personally, I'm broke," he says with a shrug. "My dad has money, but I'm as poor as the next guy."
John Bryant chuckles over his son's who-am-I dilemma. "I grew up in Detroit, and I saw life as a question of survival," he says. "Blaise was raised around whites because I always wanted the best for my family—the best houses, the best schools, the best neighborhoods. Blaise didn't always understand why we had to keep moving up. Even now, he calls home and says, 'You guys haven't moved again, have you?' I say, 'Blaise, that's what you call the American Dream.' "
The American dream, of course, is often distinct from the Football Coach's Dream. The football coach dreams of finding a speedy junior college tailback who can step in without a single down of major college game experience, gain 213 yards in his first game, and go on to rush for 1,516 yards and 19 touchdowns. If the coach dreams in color and Vista Vision, he will throw in conference Newcomer-of-the-Year honors and a passel of school records.
Blaise Bryant accomplished all of that last year for Iowa State coach Jim Walden, who thinks that Bryant's name should be on the short list of Heisman Trophy candidates this fall.
"Just because you're at Oklahoma or Notre Dame, that shouldn't automatically make you a better Heisman Trophy candidate," says Walden. "Blaise should get credit for doing what he does against great competition. Those other guys are playing for the best against teams that are not as good."
The point is well-taken, but history does not favor the Cyclone senior: The only Iowa collegian to win the Heisman Trophy was Nile Kinnick of the University of Iowa, way back in 1939. The best Iowa State vote-getter of all time was George Amundson, a quarterback who finished eighth in 1972.