|Date of birth:||October 5, 1966|
|Place of birth:||Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|Height:||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
|Weight:||270 lb (122 kg)|
|High school:||Mustang High School|
|NFL draft:||1989 – 2nd round – 42nd pick|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Stats at pro-football-reference.com|
Dennis DeWayne Byrd (born October 5, 1966) is a former defensive end and defensive tackle for the New York Jets of the National Football League. He attended college at the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He played professionally for the Jets for four seasons beginning in 1989. In his first two seasons, he recorded 28 sacks and 110 tackles.
Injury and recovery
Byrd suffered a neck injury during an NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs on November 29, 1992. During the play, he rushed in an attempt to sack Chiefs quarterback Dave Krieg, but Krieg stepped up to avoid the tackle, and Byrd collided with Jets teammate Scott Mersereau. He ducked his head at the last moment before he collided with Mersereau's chest. The head-first collision resulted in a broken C-5 vertebra that left him unable to walk for the time being. Eventually, after extensive physical therapy, he would walk again but he couldn't go back to playing football.
During his recovery, the Jets briefly used an ichthys logo bearing his old #90. In addition, some members (mainly offensive linemen) from the Buffalo Bills also wore it as a sign of support (the first game following his injury was against the Bills).
Byrd returned to the Meadowlands for the Jets' home opener on September 5, 1993, walking to midfield as an honorary captain for the coin toss. During a halftime ceremony, Jets president Steve Gutman presented him with a trophy for the Most Inspirational Player Award, which would thereafter be called the Dennis Byrd Award.
The Jets have not reissued Byrd's #90 since 1992, and it was understood that no Jet would ever wear it again. The Jets formally retired the #90 jersey during a half-time ceremony on October 28, 2012 against the Miami Dolphins.
He is the co-author of an autobiographical work titled Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd and the subject of a made for television film Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story. Peter Berg played him in the movie.
Byrd has spent most of the last several years traveling across the country and sharing his life story. He served as defensive line coach at Owasso High School in Owasso, Oklahoma and later at Lincoln Christian School in Tulsa. Lincoln Christian's football stadium is named for him. He currently lives in Tulsa with his wife, the former Angela Hales, and their four children. He is a devout Pentecostal.
During the week leading up to the 2010–2011 AFC Divisional matchup between the Jets and the Patriots, Byrd sent Jets' head coach Rex Ryan his tattered, cut up jersey that had been cut from his body on the day of his injury along with an inspirational letter addressed to the Jets. Ryan was so moved by this that he invited him to come out and personally address the team prior to the Patriots game. The inspired Jets carried his jersey to the coin toss prior to the game; the Jets won 28-21.
- Smith, Timothy W. (November 30, 1992). "Byrd Is Partly Paralyzed as Jets Fall to Chiefs". The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
- Smith, Timothy W. (December 7, 1992). "The Jets Defy All the Odds and Win One for Byrd". The New York Times. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
- "Byrd Honored at Jets Game". The New York Times. September 6, 1993. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
- Associated Press (July 31, 2012). "Jets to retire jerseys of Martin, Byrd". FOX Sports (Cortland, NY). Retrieved July 31, 2012.
- Cimini, Rich (January 17, 2011). "Dennis Byrd's speech fueled New York Jets players with extra motivation in Foxborough". ESPN (Foxborough, Massachusetts). Retrieved July 17, 2011.