Considered one of the state's top defensive backs, Justin Byers will be called on to play wide receiver and even some quarterback for Vance during his senior year.
"I'm going to play a little quarterback and wide receiver," said Byers. "I'm open to it. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. We have a young quarterback who is going to be real good, but until he is ready I might have to play there."
He certainly expects to do something he hasn't had to do much of in the past, be the leader of his football team. A man of few words, Byers will let his play, and effort, on the field do the talking.
"Coach has asked me for a lot of leadership, and that's what I'm trying to do," he said. "I'm still going to try and have a breakout season, just like if I was a junior. I'm going to play hard and fly around to the ball, because I know if everybody sees me doing it they will too.
"If the other guys see me going hard on every play even though I know where I'm going to go, they all are going to go hard too."
As a junior, Byers played in the secondary with Virginia signee Rico Bell, but was still able to total 75 tackles, and three interceptions. On offense he caught four passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and added two more scores on punt returns. Very good stats, and enough to warrant attention from some of the region's top programs, but Byers admits that he was rarely at full strength in 2005. He has been battling a hip injury that is just now fully healthy.
"My hip couldn't take the conditioning last year, and about the third game of the season I had to start sitting out some contact drills in practice," he said. "It's good right now. It started bothering me a couple of weeks ago, but I've been getting treatment, and it's not bothering me anymore."
Byers doesn't have any personal goals in mind, as he is focused solely on improving a solid Vance football program.
"I want to help the team get as far as we can," he said. "Some practices we look like a championship-caliber team, and then some practices everybody will slack off. We need to get past that and be consistent. We have to take it hard every game.
|"I want to help the team get as far as we can."|
Late in July Byers decided to end his recruitment by committing to NC State, the program that had been with him since the beginning.
"State has been liking me ever since their camp last year when I ran a 4.44 up there," he said. "They were the first to offer me and that let me know how much they wanted me because they offered me in the spring before they even had to. I remember they told me at that camp that I could play college ball with my speed... I just needed to get bigger."
Listed at 6-foot and 175 pounds, Byers wants to add another 10 pounds of muscle prior to enrolling at NC State. Doing so should give him a chance to see the field as a true freshman.
"I want to gain a couple of pounds, but I mainly want to keep my speed... if not get faster," he said. "That's what I'm working on. Colleges can put weight on you and make you stronger, but you can't teach speed."
The in-state prospect is one of nine players hailing from the state of North Carolina who have already verbaled to NC State. Byers has noticed the Wolfpack's commitment to landing top in-state talent, but he is also impressed by the focus on pursuing quality linemen.
"I know they are loading up on the lines with this class, and it all starts with everything up front," he said. "I'm not going to be successful as a corner if my defensive line isn't any good. I know the quarterbacks and wide receivers won't do good if the offensive line can't get it done.
"They are doing the right thing because their depth at the skill positions is real good right now. They need to bring in more linemen to replace guys like [Manny] Lawson and Mario Williams. I think they are doing the right thing with this class."
Check back tomorrow for Part II of Pack Pride's exclusive feature on NC State defensive back commitment Justin Byers ...