Photo by Gregory French // Staff Photographer
Former Blue Raider defensive back Kevin Byard is in Mobile, Alabama, this week for the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Byard is the first player from Middle Tennessee to partake since former wide receiver Tyrone Calico in 2003.
Byard finished off his illustrious career as a Blue Raider with a record-setting final season in 2015. The Lithonia, Georgia, native grabbed his 18th career interception on Senior Day against University of North Texas, passing Blue Raider great James Griffin (1989-1982), who had 17.
Byard spoke with Sidelines about his preparation leading up to the Senior Bowl, what he’s enjoyed most as a Blue Raider and how he’s preparing for the NFL Draft.
Sidelines: What’s the preparation been like getting ready for something as big as the Senior Bowl?
Byard: My preparation has been great. I have been training for the past three weeks at Michael Johnson Performance in McKinney, Texas, preparing for the senior bowl and the combine as well. I’ve been working very hard to get my body in the best shape possible to show the teams down at the senior bowl that I can compete with the best players in the country, and I am their guy.
Sidelines: The season ended high, with big wins to secure a bowl birth, and you setting the interceptions record. What was this final year like for you at MTSU?
Byard: It was a great feeling when I finally got my invitation to the Senior Bowl. Coach Stockstill gave it to me the Sunday after the Senior Day game versus North Texas, [which was] also the game I broke the career INT (interceptions throws) record. It was just a surreal moment because I told myself before the season started that I wanted to make it to the Senior Bowl and break records this year so to see every falling into place for me is just a blessing.
Sidelines: Looking back on your time as a Blue Raider, what will your fondest memories be playing for Stockstill and putting on that uniform?
Byard: My final year as a Blue Raider was pretty much everything I could hope for. I left the school the career leader [with] a bunch of defense statistics, a senior bowl invite and a bowl berth. Wish we could have been conference champions and won our bowl game, but that’s life. You win some and you lose some.
I think my fondest memories that I will take with me is just the great players I’ve been blessed to play with and the lifelong friendships I was able to develop.
Sidelines: Moving forward, what are your goals as you prepare for the draft? What’s the process like?
Byard: My goals preparing for the draft is pretty much fine tuning the small things as a defensive back, things that will help me be more successful at the next level and also dropping my 40 time in between the 4.5-4.4 range.
Sidelines: Ultimately, playing in the Senior Bowl, what do you want to accomplish when you take the field?
Byard: The only thing I want to accomplish down at the Senior Bowl is that when its all said and done, every general manager that’s down there has me on top of their draft boards as the No. 1 safety, that I am the hardest worker and I will do everything including special teams to help my team win.
The Senior Bowl is Jan. 30 on the NFL Network. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.
Follow Connor Ulrey on twitter @connorulrey.
To contact Sports Editor Connor Ulrey, email firstname.lastname@example.org.