Growing up, many football players share a similar ambition: to one day play in the National Football League and earn a living by doing something they love. Young football players dream of storming the field with a professional team, but for most, it’s nothing more than a dream.
After all, there are only 1,696 players on an active NFL roster at any given time, with 800 of those starting positions. The number may seem large, but when considering there are nearly 13,000 Division I college football players every season and NFL veterans are guaranteed spots, the odds of making the roster are extremely small.
However, Middle Tennessee’s strong safety Kevin Byard is confident he can make the draft. This season, he has secured five interceptions and a punt return for a touchdown, even earning C-USA special teams player of the week honors. If the redshirt junior does declare for the NFL draft following this season, he could be drafted as high as the end of the first round.
“It was always a dream for me, growing up,” Byard says about the possibility of playing in the NFL, “but now I think I can do it.”
A life of football
The liberal studies major from Lithonia, Georgia has always been devoted to football. In high school, the only sport he participated in apart from football was track, which allowed him to stay conditioned for football and become faster. After playing quarterback, wide receiver and safety in high school, Byard was expected to play as a wide receiver for the University of Kentucky. That is, until his scholarship was pulled.
“After they pulled my offer, I knew that Middle Tennessee was the place for me,” Byard said.
Byard found success in Murfreesboro after being redshirted his freshman year in 2011. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, he has intercepted 14 passes (4 for touchdowns), forced four fumbles, recovered one, defended 24 passes and blocked one kick. The five-foot-11-inch safety is now two interceptions away from tying the Middle Tennessee career record for interceptions of 16, held by James Griffin, who was drafted in the seventh round of the 1983 NFL Draft.
If Byard decides to declare for the NFL Draft following the season, he could impress NFL scouts. But, for him, that decision isn’t important right now. He is focused on the task at hand: winning games for Middle Tennessee. After the season, he said he will talk to his family and make a decision.
If drafted, Byard said he would give back to his roots. He also says he would give back to his high school and buy them a new weight room, as well as give back to the Middle Tennessee community.
He’s a very athletic player and knows that he “can make plays” when the ball is in his hands. He could very well be drafted by his favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, between the second and fourth rounds of the 2015 Draft if the team decides that Shamarko Thomas is not their starter for the future. If that were to happen, he says he could play alongside one of his favorite players of all time, All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu.
Kevin Byard may not play very difficult opponents like the other top safety prospects, but he has the will power, talent and devotion to become become the highest drafted Blue Raider in NFL history.
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