"One on One" with Jeff Byers

Your looking around, position by position and you wonder, who is the best. Who's the best running back? Who's the best quarterback? Who's the best linebacker and more importantly, how much do they like your school? When talking about offensive guards, some think that if you are going to talk about one of if not the best, you have to include in there Jeff Byers, maybe the best this year, maybe one of the best ever.

It's too early to call anyone the best, isn't it? Sure, if you have seen Jeff's film, you know he not only beats his guy, but beats him down, dominating them mentally and physically. He's a specimen from hell that gives hell to anyone that is unfortunate enough to be lined up across from him.

The best, though?

"It's pretty crazy." Jeff said of recent comments about him possibly being one of the best ever. "Going into this recruiting process, I didn't know how high I was going to get recruited, but I didn't think it was going to be anything like this."

"Like this" basically means, almost 30 offers even before he's taken a snap as a senior. And, "Like this" means analysts like our own national recruiting expert, Jamie Newberg saying that Byers might very well be the best interior linemen he has ever seen. It's something that's coming as more than a bit of a surprise to Byers. "My coaches said this might happen and I was like, ‘thanks for telling me'." Jeff said jokingly. "They made me feel like I was just some average joe with a big body and potential."

Potential might be the wrong word for Jeff, but I have to say, what are you going to call a kid that people can't wait to see play. You've seen his junior film and he just crushes everyone, so what's he going to do this year? That's the potential, to be even better, to be even more dominant, as impossible as that may seem.

What goes through your
mind out there?

"I just want to hit my guy so
hard, he's just
back on his heels the
whole game.

What are you thinking
when you get a wide
open hit on a defender?

"I just smile, because life
is good."

The biggest challenge for Jeff this year might not be so much as what goes on the field, but off. With all this publicity and adulation, confidence can be misinterpreted as arrogance, even though Jeff himself hasn't changed. And, he really hasn't. This young man believes in himself, as he always has. "I work hard and the people around me push me." Jeff said. "I have a lot of friends that have done great things in their life and have helped me a long the way to make me the person I am."

This is a perspective that isn't unique to Jeff Byers, but it's admirable nonetheless. In a world where we are so used to hearing about players touting themselves, someone that seems to almost have the right to do just that, does anything but. "If I am the best player in the nation and we go 0-10, that sucks." Jeff said. "I want to win games and that is my first priority and all this college stuff, that comes second."

The college stuff is inevitable though. With almost 30 offers in hand already, Jeff has had a ton to think about before the deluge of recruiters have even arrived. It's a precursor or an omen of what is to come and you would have to think, almost 30 offers is a heck of a warm up.

It's enough to force you to look at it, but Jeff takes a fairly placable mind-set to it. "I'm just waiting for when it feels right (to me)." Jeff said of making his final decision on where he's going to college. "If I get along with the coaches, the players, the academics are good and we can win some games, if it feels right, that's where I will go."

Don't get any ideas of about who that college is, because Jeff hasn't even begun to narrow his list. In fact, he names schools off with an obvious intent in making sure nobody is considered above one another. "I don't name them in any order because that's who I like the most." Jeff said. "That's just the teams I named."

Some of those teams courting him that he is looking at with equal indifference are, Colorado, USC, Nebraska, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and so on and so forth. This time of year, most kids don't have an idea of where they want to go and that's with limited options. Jeff has almost limitless options, so if you are looking for a narrowed list, you might want to check back in about three or so months, if then.

The bottom line to this kid is simple. He's good. No, he's darn good, maybe the best at his position in the entire country. He'll be the talk of the town, the buzz on the net and one of the top names for every line-coach in the country. Ok, that's the easy part.

The hard part will be for fans already drooling down their chins at just the thought of this kid anchoring their offensive line.

Well, get out your bibs, the drool cup or a towel if you think you need it. Because chances are, Jeff isn't going to be deciding anything soon, but that certainly won't lessen how much you hear from him or about him as coaches, analysts and probably even a few opponents continue to laud in both happy and frustrated tones. That's how it is when you are one of the best.

Jeff's not worried about it though. For him, this year is about one thing and one thing only. "I think we have a chance to win a state title this year and I am about winning games. I would rather not have a highlight and win then have a bunch of highlights and lose."

"Winning is all that matters."

Steve Ryan can be reached at huskerconnection@neb.rr.com or 402-730-5619

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