Dylan Briscoe used to be known for dancing on the football field after a big play. “Disco Briscoe” was his nickname.
The music came to a screeching halt for Dylan on Jan. 8, 2015. Cancer took the life of his mom, Melissa Briscoe, at age 44.
Now, Dylan’s dancing again. Sometimes the music is more somber than before, but he keeps moving.
“I’m playing to make her proud,” the Texas Wesleyan freshman defensive end said, his eyes misting. “We were very close, and I miss her every minute of every day.
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“She fought for about six months; she fought so hard. She’d be happy I’m still playing.”
Dylan admits he wrestled with continuing to play after Melissa’s death. He still had a senior season ahead of him at Mansfield Summit, but football was nowhere near the forefront of his mind. In fact, it was hard to keep anything on his mind for very long save for one thing, his mom.
“She had the biggest heart. She put everybody else before her,” he said, no longer able to hold back a tear. “She was raising four kids on a teacher’s salary. She was and is still such an inspiration to me.”
Melissa taught elementary school, fifth-grade to be exact.
“About 75 percent of the team at Summit, they knew my mom. I grew up with them. I knew she wouldn’t want me to quit,” he said.
Dylan decided to keep playing. He was named all-state in his senior season at Summit.
“I never lost sight for my love of the game, and it was always my dream to play college football,” he said. “My mom and I talked about it a lot, and ultimately that is why I continued to play.”
But Dylan didn’t receive the abundance of college offers he was hoping for following his career at Summit. He considered joining the Navy, something else he knew would make his mom proud.
Then, fate helped him out. Texas Wesleyan revived its football program after 76 years of being dormant. He was already attending the school on the advice of his favorite teacher, Ashley Mohler, herself a TWU graduate.
“She was so understanding as my teacher, so patient. She was a big help getting me signed up for school,” Dylan said.
“He’s dedicated, hard-working, driven, thoughtful, loving and passionate,” Mohler said. “Despite losing his mother while in high school, Dylan has continued to succeed both in school and on the field.”
The death of his mom, though devastating, hasn’t soured Dylan on life, something that makes Mohler proud.
“Dylan is probably the most polite young man you’ll meet, always opening doors, even for strangers at restaurants,” she said. “You’ll always get a yes/no ma’am/sir from him.
“He also has a quick wit and a wicked sense of humor.”
Through the TWU Rams’ first five games he posted 15 tackles and a sack.
“I’ve been blessed that they gave me a chance to play here, and it’s pretty cool being a part of history,” he said. “We’re just starting here. I think we are building something really special and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Rams head coach Joe Prud’homme is thrilled also. He said Dylan, along with being a standout player, is an example of strength because of what he has been through.
“Dylan has a strength and presence about him that is impressive. He is very selfless and looks out for others,” Prud’homme said. “His mental, physical and emotional toughness is evident in the way that he conducts himself in all areas.
“He’s definitely looked up to by his teammates and leads by his actions. Dylan is somebody that we depend on.”
Melissa Briscoe passed along some athletic genes to her children. A 1988 Arlington High graduate, she was an accomplished athlete in soccer, softball and volleyball.
Following the death of his mom, Dylan moved in with his good friend Trey Smith and his dad, Robert Smith. His younger brother Garrett moved in with one of his friends. Older sister Emily had already moved out and is a supervisor at Six Flags Over Texas, and older brother Zachary is a TCU graduate furthering his education at Florida State University.
“It was tough being separated from Garrett, but we still see each other,” Dylan said. “It made us, and our grandma in Pantego, a lot closer. We appreciate more the time we all have together. We go out to eat regularly.
“Emily came back and helped take care of mom. And Zachary has always been like my father figure the past few years. He still manages all her accounts. He’s super smart.”
Robert Smith said Dylan has been like a son to him, so of course he welcomed him into his home.
“He has always had that extra shine. I look at him and I see nothing but success,” Smith said. “My son Trey and him are like brothers.
“Dylan has taught myself a lot, how to keep striving for the best.”
Dylan recalled how even after his mom could no longer physically attend games, she remained supportive in her own special way.
“We had a game at Mansfield ISD Stadium and she could hear it from where she was down the street (the hospital). She messaged me after and said, ‘Sounded like you guys did good,’” he said. “No matter what, she was always there to support each and every one of us.”
Dylan’s first home game with Wesleyan — and the Rams’ first home game since 1941— was commemorated by his face being on the ticket. Dylan found out when he was given his allotment of tickets to hand out to family and friends.
“My friends and teammates called me Ticket Boy,” he said with a laugh. “That was quite an honor, to be honest. I’ve got a stack that big (holds fingers about three inches apart) of leftover tickets.”
He’d love to give a ticket to his mom, and he’ll always have one set aside for her. And every play is dedicated to her.
“The emotions go back and forth. Yeah, it’s hard not having her around, but I’m staying positive and doing what I want to do, and what she’d want me to do,” he said.
That includes dancing once again.
“It’s a little harder getting those tackles in college,” he said, smiling. “But when I’m back there, sure, I’m busting a move.”