Photo by Gregory French // Staff Photographer
Former Middle Tennessee standout safety Kevin Byard is moving away from his superb outing at the Senior Bowl back in January.
Next up on the NFL-hopeful’s list: MTSU’s Pro Day on March 31.
MTSU will hold its Pro Day at Tennessee State University’s Indoor Practice Facility starting at 9 a.m. CT on Thursday, and will be comprised of 19 players, including one of Byard’s former teammates and mentors, Jeremy Kellem.
Byard had an excellent showing at the Senior Bowl, but still failed to earn an NFL Combine invite.
Given Byard’s lack of inclusion at the combine, many scouts are interested in Byard’s Pro Day, especially his 40-yard dash time.
MTSU Sidelines sports editor Connor Grott talked with Byard about the combine snub, his upcoming Pro Day and many other topics as he continues his path to the National Football League.
Sidelines: So, what has Kevin Byard been up to since the Bahamas Bowl ended?
Byard: I’ve been down here in Dallas just training since New Year’s, at Michael Johnson Performance. I’ve been down here ever since; I haven’t moved. The first month down there I was training for the Senior Bowl. Once the Senior Bowl was over, I moved right back out here to get ready for my Pro Day.
Sidelines: What was it like to get that Senior Bowl experience?
Byard: I feel like it was a great experience just being around so many great players and coaches. It was a good way to get that first taste of NFL coaching. Everyone’s down there just trying to take in the information.
Sidelines: Fast forward to the NFL Combine. When did you find out you weren’t going to be invited?
Byard: I was waiting on the invite ever since the bowl season was over. Once I didn’t get one, I was hoping I’d get one when I got down there to the Senior Bowl. I wanted to earn one since I learned that all the invites weren’t sent out yet. When I was still down there, another wave of invites came out and I still didn’t get one. At that point, I started preparing myself that I wasn’t going to get that combine invite.
Sidelines: What was going through your mind after you got snubbed from the NFL Combine?
Byard: I don’t know how they went about giving the invitations. I don’t know what it was based off of. When I was at the Senior Bowl, I interviewed with 26 NFL teams and was evaluated by, pretty much, all the teams. At the end of the day, what I put on film and the work I did at the Senior Bowl was good and I hope to prove my doubters wrong.
Sidelines: Is there any theory you have as to why you didn’t get an invitation?
Byard: It’s really hard to tell, honestly. I couldn’t answer that if I sat here and thought about it all day. I just took it as maybe they didn’t feel I deserved an invite. But once my Pro Day comes around, I think they’ll regret not giving me a combine invite. But at the same time, it doesn’t really matter anymore.
Sidelines: Now, I haven’t asked Mike Minter yet, even though I know he runs a fast 40-yard dash. But, what’s your 40-time right now?
Byard: That’s what I’ve been in Dallas working on. I’m going to keep that a secret right now. I’ll let you find that out at my Pro Day. Just know that it’s going to be a good time.
Sidelines: What’s a previous 40-time that you’ve ran?
Byard: I haven’t ran a 40 since high school, and I ran a 4.47. That was going into my senior year. So, you should expect my time to be somewhere around that. With my training, they’re really helping me get my technique back to my track team days. Everybody should expect a good time, though.
Sidelines: What things have you been working on the most at Michael Johnson Performance?
Byard: At first I was doing a bunch of combine workouts, because I still thought I was going. But it’s pretty much the whole package here. I hit the weight room three or four times a week, and I’ve been doing speed work and a bunch of other drills.
Sidelines: Who are some of the other prospects or coaches that you’re working with in Dallas?
Byard: There are plenty of prospects here. Kenneth Dixon from Louisiana Tech has been down here. He just left after the combine training. Another safety from TCU, Derrick Kindred, is training here. Oregon receiver Bralon Addison is here. And there’s also a bunch of other small schools guys here, too.
Sidelines: Going back to the combine snub, how much is that driving you for March 31 and your Pro Day?
Byard: I feel like just being at Middle Tennessee, we’re snubbed on a lot of things. So, I’m always trying to keep this chip on my shoulder. I want myself to feel like I always have something to prove. Not giving me a combine invite has just given me more motivation. At my Pro Day, I want to show all the scouts that I am one of the top defensive backs in the country and I can compete with anybody.
Sidelines: So, what’s the main thing you’re focused on improving ahead of your Pro Day?
Byard: I’ve just been working on my game as a whole. My 40-time, of course, is going to be the most important number. I’ve been training for this like I’m going to put on a show. That’s what I plan on doing.
Sidelines: Have you reached out to any former players for advice?
Byard: I’ve talked to Benny Cunningham a few times. He actually wanted me to come out there to train with him in Nashville. I reached out to Phillip Tanner and talked with him a couple times when I got to Dallas, too.
Sidelines: After talking with the people around you, is there anything you’ve heard about your draft projections?
Byard: Not too much right now, to be honest. After the Senior Bowl, I saw a few mock drafts that had me going in the fourth round. I’ve heard everything from fourth round to seventh round. I’m not too worried about my draft projection right now. I’m just worried about this Pro Day. If I have a good Pro Day, everything will take care of itself.
To contact Sports Editor Connor Grott, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Connor_Grott.