|Height: 6-3 | Weight: 255 | College: Southern California|
Byrd is a team-first player who has excellent athletic ability, but injuries always seemed to prevent him from fully displaying his talent on the football field for an entire season. Byrd looks at his injuries differently. "I believe that my injuries were blessings in disguise," he said. "I think everything happens for a reason, and it was just time for me to mature as a person. And I knew that confidence is one of the biggest issues in coming back from an injury. It wasn't a battle because I feel I'm always an upbeat person. It also made me love football. I think it just made me stronger and made me know that this is a game that I really want to play."
During his time at The Breck School, Byrd was granted a waiver to play with the football team while still in the eighth grade. Growing up in a tough neighborhood, he talked about his experience at Breck. "The school was upper class and people lived in the suburbs, but I lived in South Minneapolis," Byrd said. "A lot of kids there were sheltered, but I wasn't. My mom had me take the city bus when I was 8 years old. Because I was so big, no one would bother me. I saw a lot growing up. We had SWAT teams coming in next door to where I lived. Because of my high school experience, I can go hang out with anybody. To me, it doesn't matter. I can relate to people. I never worry about making friends."
Byrd earned 2001 Super Prep, Prep Star,s Tom Lemming, Max Emfinger, USA Today and Student Sports All-America prep honors at Breck. He was a member of the Super Prep Elite 50, Super Prep All-Midwest Offensive MVP, Prep Stars All-Western Region and Student Sports All-Midwest first team as a senior. He caught 62 passes for 1,236 yards (19.9 avg) and 25 touchdowns as a tight end in 2001 and had a team-high 108 tackles, including 21 for losses (with four sacks), and made four interceptions (returning three for touchdowns) as a linebacker.
As a junior, Byrd had 56 receptions for 1,280 yards (22.9 avg) and 17 scores on offense and 109 tackles on defense. In his career (he also played some at wide receiver), he made 147 catches for 3,008 yards (20.5 avg) and 49 touchdowns while starting all four seasons. He also interned for Minnesota senator Mark Dayton during a summer in high school.
Byrd also was on the basketball team, earning 2002 Student Sports Grid-Hoops All-America third-team honors while averaging 17.3 points per game as a junior. On the track team, he recorded personal bests of 11.2 in the 100 meters and 6'4" in the high jump. He had started on the varsity basketball team since the eighth grade after obtaining a waiver to play at that level.
Byrd competed mostly on special teams as a true freshman in 2002 at Southern California, catching one pass for 10 yards. He also played defensive end vs. Oregon, making two tackles. When Alex Holmes was sidelined for the year prior to the 2003 season opener, Byrd stepped into the lineup for the first six games. He tore left knee ligaments vs. Stanford, missing the final seven games. He finished his sophomore season sixth on the team with 268 yards and a touchdown on 14 receptions (19.1 avg).
He worked hard to come back from his left knee injury during the 2004 off-season, but in July, he fractured his right kneecap in a pickup basketball game, missing the first four games of his junior season. He returned in a reserve role for the final nine games, coming up with a career-high 37 catches (fourth on the team) for 384 yards (10.4 avg) and three touchdowns. He also gained 1 yard on a reverse and made a solo tackle.
Primed to return to the starting lineup in 2005, Byrd missed spring drills while concentrating on his academics and because of a broken jaw. He also had arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage in a toe prior to 2005 spring practice. Byrd sat out the Stanford game due to a hip pointer, finishing with eight starts in 12 games. He still managed to catch 29 passes for 306 yards (10.6 avg), but did not score a touchdown.
In 39 games with the Trojans, Byrd started 14 times. He caught 81 passes for 968 yards (12.0 avg) and four touchdowns. He also recorded three solo tackles and carried once for a 1-yard gain.
Positives: Has a thick frame with a good bubble, broad shoulders and long arms Shows good quickness in his initial step off the line and has enough acceleration to separate on long routes (will not win many foot races going long distances, though) Uses his balance and long arms to keep defenders off his body and prevent them from jamming or rerouting him Uses his good strength to break tackles after the catch Does a good job adjusting to short, low passes, sinking his pads well to find the soft area in zone coverage Maintains concentration on the ball working in a crowd and has the power to absorb punishment Best when tracking the ball in flight, as he keeps his head on a swivel and showed late in 2005 better ability to work back when the quarterback is pressured Has enough burst to initially break free from a defender Stays low in his pads and keeps his balance when working as an in-line blocker.
Negatives: Durability is a concern, as injuries have sidelined him from game action in each of his last three years Struggles with his academics and while the coaches say he can retain plays, he might have problems digesting a complicated playbook Needs to understand the depth of his routes and read on the move better Has good strength and can deliver a strong initial hand punch when blocking, but fails to sustain his blocks, especially when working in combination with offensive tackles Must do a better job of gaining position when attempting to neutralize linebackers at the second level.
Byrd has a thick frame with good chest definition, broad shoulders, good bubble and very long arms. He is ambidextrous and plays with good awareness, but has struggled in the past academically. He runs with a normal stride and has the sudden burst needed to separate in the short area.
Byrd does not hesitate to compete for jump balls. He is a hard worker in the weight room and in practices, showing good maturity and even better character. He always plays until the whistle and is well respected by the staff and team.
Despite his previous injuries, Byrd flashes decent explosiveness in his initial step off the line of scrimmage. He has the strength and hand usage to defeat the jam and builds to top acceleration quickly. He might not have the loose hips to elude in isolated coverage, but he shows a good stride throughout his patterns.
Byrd is still a work in progress in attempts to make adjustments and uncover coming out of his breaks. He has good quickness, but needs to understand the depth of his routes and show a better ability to read on the move. Still, he knows how to use his power to drive and muscle his way through traffic.
He is best when used in the short area. He comes off his initial block with good urgency, but is marginal to uncover. Late in 2005, he showed better vision working back for the ball and finding the voids than he did in the past, though. Byrd is adequate at maintaining concentration on the ball and shows toughness taking on the defender for jump balls (this is where most of his production comes from).
While Byrd has long arms to extend for the ball away from his frame, he is prone to body catching quite a bit. He has shown flashes to catch the high and low throws, but must use his hand extension better to get to the ball at the high point.
His ability to separate once he comes out of his breaks and agility lets him be a decent deep threat, but he will not win many foot races after the catch. He prefers to run over defenders than elude, but he has the functional strength needed to break tackles.
As a blocker, he stays low in his pads and shows a strong base to gain position, but needs to stay on his man longer in attempts to sustain. When he gets his hands extended, he is effective at locking on and steering, but you wish he could be more consistent, especially on combination blocks. Even when blocking downfield, he does not stay on his feet long or make good adjustments on the move to neutralize the linebacker.
Byrd has shown enough flashes to warrant a second-day draft selection. Durability issues are sure to downgrade his rating and while he is a good athlete, consistency has been lacking. If he can improve his blocking skills and stay away from the training room, he could provide good value as a reserve early in his career.
In 38 games with the Trojans, Byrd caught 77 passes (24th on the school's all-time list) for 936 yards (12.2 avg) and four touchdowns.
A preseason Mackey Award (nation's top tight end) and All-America candidate, Byrd had arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage in a toe prior to 2005 spring practice and also missed spring drills while concentrating on academics and because of a broken jaw Sat out the Stanford game due to a hip pointer In 12 games, Byrd started vs. Arkansas, Oregon, Arizona State, Arizona, Notre Dame, Washington, UCLA and Texas Caught 29 passes for 306 yards (10.6 avg), but did not register any touchdowns
Thirteen of his receptions resulted in first downs, including five on third-down plays.
|2005 Game Analysis|
Hawaii Came off the bench to catch one pass for 3 yards in the second quarter, but was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play.
Arkansas Both of his receptions were good for first downs, totaling 27 yards At the start of the third quarter, Byrd caught an 11-yard slant pass from QB Matt Leinart, followed by a 16-yarder on the next play. Byrd and offensive tackle Will Justice then leveled linebacker Sam Olajubutu and held off defensive end Desmond Sims two plays later to create a rush lane used by halfback LenDale White for a 1-yard touchdown run that capped a 4-play, 86-yard drive.
Oregon Caught three passes for 32 yards and delivered five knockdowns Had a 9-yard catch midway through the second quarter, followed with a block on strong safety Kwame Agyeman on an 11-yard run by tailback Reggie Bush that set up Bush's 19-yard touchdown on a pass from QB Matt Leinart His 18-yard reception at the start of the third quarter set up Leinart's 11-yard scoring strike to Dwayne Jarrett that concluded a 76-yard, 5-play drive.
Arizona State Added three catches for 17 yards, but was penalized twice and allowed a quarterback sack Called for a false start midway through the first quarter and had a 19-yard reception on the next drive called back when USC was penalized for an illegal formation Made up for those miscues in the third quarter by blocking defensive end Kyle Caldwell on a 32-yard scoring run by halfback LenDale White Missed a block on linebacker Jamar Williams that allowed the defender to sack Matt Leinart for a 9-yard loss.
Arizona His only reception was a 16-yard sideline pass thrown by Matt Leinart in the second quarter.
Notre Dame Followed with a pair of catches for 56 yards, including a season-long 52-yarder that set up LenDale White's 3-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter (Byrd upended defensive end Chris Frome to spring White on that play) Beaten by defensive end Victor Abiamiri on a 7-yard sack of Matt Leinart in the second quarter.
Washington Caught three passes for 31 yards, including a 13-yarder for a first down in the first quarter.
Washington State Caught a third-and-7 pass from Matt Leinart for a 15-yard gain and four plays later, Byrd took down linebacker Steve Dildine to clear the way for a 14-yard run by tailback Reggie Bush in the first quarter.
Stanford Did not play (hip pointer).
California Saw limited action, but did catch one pass for 5 yards at the start of the third quarter, finishing off a 7-play, 80-yard drive by leveling defensive end Tosh Lopoi to spring LenDale White for a 6-yard touchdown run.
Fresno State Gained 16 yards as both of his catches converted on third-down plays On third-and-7 from the USC 47, Matt Leinart threw an 8-yarder to Byrd, and three plays later on third-and-5, Leinart and Byrd again connected on an 8-yard pass to set up Mario Danelo's 31-yard field goal with 0:02 left in the first half.
UCLA Returned to the starting lineup, responding with a season-high six receptions for 56 yards Caught a 14-yard pass from Matt Leinart and then brought down linebacker Wesley Walker on a 23-yard run by tailback Reggie Bush in the first quarter His 8-yard catch in the second quarter and his block five plays later on linebacker Spencer Havner gave Bush room to negotiate for a 13-yard touchdown run Caught a third-and-4 fourth quarter pass from Leinart for 19 yards and capped off the 10-play, 84-yard drive by upending defensive end Justin Hoffman on LenDale White's 8-yard scoring scamper.
Texas (Rose Bowl) Closed his career with four catches for 32 yards.
All-Pac 10 Conference honorable mention Missed spring drills while recovering from a 2003 left knee injury Sat out the team's first four games vs. Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Brigham Young and Stanford after breaking his left kneecap in a pickup basketball game just before 2004 fall practice began When he returned, he was impressive in the Trojans' final nine games Ranked fourth on the team as he caught a career-high 37 passes for 384 yards (10.4 avg) and three touchdowns Gained 1 yard on a reverse and also made a solo tackle.
|2004 Game Analysis|
Arizona State In his first action in 2004, Byrd caught three passes for 49 yards.
Washington Followed with five catches (four for first downs) for 57 yards.
Washington State Gained 32 yards on five receptions.
Oregon State Caught seven passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns, including a sensational one-handed grab for an 18-yard score and another for 25 yards.
Arizona Caught a career-high eight passes for 72 yards, six of them good for first downs.
Notre Dame Totaled 23 yards on four catches.
UCLA Made a pair of catches for 8 yards.
Oklahoma (Orange Bowl) Closed the year with three receptions for 58 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown.
When an injury sidelined Alex Holmes all season, Byrd emerged as the starter for the first 6 games He excelled, but he tore ligaments in his left knee vs. Stanford, had surgery and was sidelined the remainder of the 2003 season In six games, he ranked sixth on the team with 14 receptions for 268 yards (19.1 avg) and a touchdown.
|2003 Game Analysis|
Auburn Opened the season with three catches for 63 yards, including a 42-yarder that set up a score.
Brigham Young Had a pair of receptions for 19 yards.
Hawaii Made three catches for 28 yards.
California Totaled 60 yards on two receptions Had a 27-yard touchdown catch and a 33-yarder that set up another scoring drive.
Stanford Gained 60 yards on two catches before suffering medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligament damage in his left knee that ended his season.
Played in every game, except vs. Kansas State, as a true freshman Worked early in the season as a defensive end, posting two tackles vs. Oregon His only reception was good for 10 yards in the Stanford game.
2003: Suffered torn medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee vs. Stanford (10/11) that required surgery, forcing him to miss the rest of the season and 2004 spring drills.
2004: Suffered a fractured right kneecap (7/01) in a pickup basketball game that forced him to miss the season's first four games.
2005: Sat out spring drills after undergoing turf toe surgery Missed the Stanford game (11/05) with a hip pointer.
Campus: 4.82 in the 40-yard dash 365-pound bench press 33 -inch arm length 9 -inch hands Ambidextrous.
Combine: Did not participate in individual workouts.
Attended The Breck School (Golden Valley, Minn.), playing football for head coach John Thiel Earned 2001 Super Prep, Prep Stars, Tom Lemming, Max Emfinger, USA Today and Student Sports All-America prep honors Member of the Super Prep Elite 50, Super Prep All-Midwest Offensive MVP, Prep Stars All-Western Region and Student Sports All-Midwest first team as a senior Caught 62 passes for 1,236 yards (19.9 avg) and 25 touchdowns as a tight end in 2001 and had a team-high 108 tackles, including 21 for losses (with four sacks), and made four interceptions (returning three for touchdowns) as a linebacker As a junior, Byrd had 56 receptions for 1,280 yards (22.9 avg) and 17 scores on offense and 109 tackles on defense In his career (he also played some at wide receiver), he made 147 catches for 3,008 yards (20.5 avg) and 49 touchdowns while starting all four seasons
Also was on the basketball team, earning 2002 Student Sports Grid-Hoops All-America third-team honors while averaging 17.3 points as a junior On the track team, he recorded personal bests of 11.2 in the 100 meters and 6'4" in the high jump Started on the varsity basketball team since the eighth grade after obtaining a waiver to play at that level.
African-American Studies major Interned for Minnesota senator Mark Dayton during a summer in high school Born 2/07/84 Resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota.