There can be nothing as painful as the phone call the family of Dennis Byrd received on Saturday morning. A great man cut down in the very prime of his life. A great man who overcame a life-threatening injury so many years ago. An inspiration to family, friends and New York Jets fans.
Dennis Byrd. #90. I'm almost at a loss for words but I will try to express the tremendous awe and respect I have for who he was.
Dennis Byrd was raised in Oklahoma and played football at the University of Tulsa. The New York Jets selected DE Dennis Byrd in the 2nd round of the 1989 NFL draft, the 42nd overall pick. 1989 was an amazing draft year, with the number one pick of Troy Aikman, the number 3 pick of Barry Sanders and the number 5 pick of Deion Sanders. Dennis Byrd started his NFL career in a great year along with other amazing players.
In his four season of play with the New York Jets, he accumulated 28 sacks 1 safety and 1 kick return.
Then fate took a twisted turn on November 29, 1992, when Byrd suffered a fractured vertebrae in an awful collision with his own teammate Scott Mersereau. Byrd rushed in a play against Kansas City Chiefs QB Dave Krieg, ducked his head at the last moment, and collided with Mersereau's chest.
I was at that game. I remember the extremely somber feeling in the stadium as he was carted off the field. The emergency responders and doctors were instrumental in getting him off the field quickly and ultimately saved his life. The EMT's cut the jersey off his body; that jersey would later become a token of inspiration for the New York Jets when they needed it the most.
The prognosis for his recovery wasn't good. No one thought he would ever walk again. Dennis Byrd proved everyone wrong. He walked to midfield as an honorary captain for the coin toss at the home opener on September 5, 1993. During halftime he was presented with the Most Inspirational Player Award, which became the Dennis Byrd Award for the years to follow.
Read his co-authored autobiography and watch the made-for-television movie that follow his recovery; be motivated and be inspired. Dennis Byrd traveled around the country and shared his life story, spreading the story of his determination to overcome unbeatable odds.
He was instrumental in helping the New York Jets overcome unbeatable odds in the 2010-2011 AFC Divisional match against the Patriots. Dennis sent that cut up jersey he saved from 1992 along with a letter to Head Coach Rex Ryan right before the game. Rex Ryan was so moved he invited Dennis Byrd to speak directly to the team before the game. Against all odds, the New York Jets beat the Patriots 28-21.
The definition of inspiration is the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions. This embodies Dennis Byrd.
I'm going to send Dennis Byrd's family a sympathy card. I'm not going to tweet, text or Facebook a "RIP Dennis Byrd".
He and his family deserve more than that for the lessons of strength he gave each and every one of us in his short but incredible life.
Please do the same.