Wenzhi “Vincent” Deng ’19 is living a dream that began barely a year ago when he got his first taste of Division I football.
Now a transfer student from Bryant Zhuhai, Deng had only played competitive touch football in his hometown of Guangzhou, China, before coming to Bryant's Smithfield campus as part of his Sophomore International Experience in August 2016.
“They told me ... I needed to improve my body and most importantly I was told that I needed a big heart.”
“I thought it was going to be just a cool trip to do in the summer,” says Deng, an Accounting major, "but I saw the Bryant players and they inspired me to pursue this dream further and play football with pads.”
Each year during the Bryant Zhuhai SIE, Bryant football coaches hold an informal session with the Bryant Zhuhai students to introduce them to American football. Many of his classmates treat the session as just a short, fun activity to throw the pigskin around, but Deng didn’t want it to end. He approached the coaching staff and asked what it would take to make the team.
“They told me I had to lose weight, get faster, and get stronger,” he says. “I needed to improve my body and most importantly I was told that I needed a big heart.”
Deng returned to China to complete his sophomore year at Bryant Zhuhai, where he committed to transforming his body as he prepared to transfer to the Smithfield campus and make the team. He also received guidance from David Lux, Ph.D., the dean at Bryant Zhuhai at the time, who kept Bulldog coaches up to date regarding Deng’s academic and physical progress.
Deng was accepted into Bryant Smithfield in the spring. Visa issues kept him from attending training camp, but his hard work and commitment to football was enough to convince Head Coach James Perry that Deng was worth a walk-on spot on the team.
“His unique story is a source of strength,” Perry says. “We have a large roster and each player has a unique story and I think players benefit from seeing others with unique stories, too.”
Deng, a running back, has yet to play in a game this season, but he's not upset.
“I’m just not ready yet,” he says. “I don’t fully understand the plays and I’m not as fast and strong as some of the other players. But I am proud that my teammates accept me as part of the team.”
“He is a very upbeat person and I have yet to see him in a bad mood,” Perry says. “He brings positive energy every day to practice and he has embraced this challenge.”
Deng vows to be ready if called upon.
“I can feel my mind, my speaking skills and my body all improving,” he says. “I want to keep this going. I want to be better and I will be better."