"It was a shock," said Byrd. "It was the day before Halloween and when I came into school that morning my coach came up to me and congratulated me for getting an offer from NC State.
"It wasn't like with Purdue, who had been showing me a lot of interest and sending a lot of mail. I didn't even know how much NC State liked me so I called and talked with coach Archer who said that he was very excited to give me a full scholarship offer."
Byrd held offers from Troy, Ball State, Southern Miss, Arkansas State, Alabama State, Buffalo, Western Michigan, and Florida Atlantic before NC State jumped into the mix.
While he might be flying under the recruiting radar, Byrd is confident in his abilities. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder plays tailback, safety, cornerback, and linebacker for Pahokee, one of the top teams in the state of Florida.
"I play all over the field," said Byrd. "My coaches have me playing cornerback, safety, and linebacker on defense, but I'm going to be a cover corner in college.
|"I play all over the field."|
"In all of our big games I go against the top receiver and play cornerback... I just played against Rantavious Wooten from Glade Central, he's going to Georgia. That's my job though when we play a big-time receiver... I get to cover him."
High school games aren't the only time that Byrd is challenged. Playing for Pahokee, he faces top talent on a daily basis. Pahokee High School is one of the top football programs in the state of Florida. Wake Forest standouts Demir Boldin and Alphonso Smith attended the school, as did Florida State tailback Antone Smith and ex-FSU star Anquan Boldin.
This year's team features wide receiver Nu'keese Richardson, who is committed to Florida and athlete Vincent Smith, a Michigan commitment. Last year's squad was led by wideout Martavious Odoms, who is a freshman at Michigan and cornerback/wide receiver Janoris Jenkins, who is a Florida Gator. With that type of skilled talent in the program, practices are fierce at Pahokee.
"I think that's why we are so good," said Byrd. "I'm always being challenged and so is everybody on our team. I get to go against my teammates all the time and last year I did that with Martavious and Janoris too. It makes us all better and that's why we are always winning."
After landing the offer from NC State, Byrd informed his family of the news.
"My family was real happy for me," said Byrd. "All of my cousins, my uncles, and my dad they all knew I was wanting to get my first BCS offer. My dad was real excited because he's kind of a Wolfpack fan anyways. He said he's always liked watching them play."
Hailing from a family of athletes, Byrd is the latest to pursue a college career in football.
His cousin, Alphonso Smith, is a starting cornerback for Wake Forest and a likely first-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Byrd's uncle, Rickey Jackson, prepped at Pahokee High before attending the University of Pittsburgh. After a stellar career at Pitt, Jackson played 15 years in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers. A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Jackson starred at linebacker and won a championship ring with the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX one year before retiring.
According to Byrd, he spoke with both Smith and Jackson before making his decision.
"Alphonso was happy for me," said Byrd. "He told me that I should go ahead and commit to NC State if that's where I want to go and not worry about being overlooked by other schools. He said he was a lot like me when he was in high school. He was overlooked because of his size and he was only running about a 4.6 back then, but now he's faster because they worked with him when he got to college. He is about to go to the NFL... I think he's going to be a high draft pick.
"My uncles and dad were telling me to really think about committing. My uncle, Rickey Jackson, he played for the New Orleans Saints at linebacker. He and my dad were saying that if it's where I want to go then I should go ahead and commit because I shouldn't wait too long or someone else might take up my roster spot."
After pondering the offer for a few weeks, Byrd realized over the weekend that he was ready to commit to the Wolfpack.
|"Alphonso was happy for me."|
"I was watching them play Wake Forest and I talked with my family that day and we decided I should go ahead and commit," said Byrd. "I wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way so I could focus on the rest of my season.
"I came to school on Monday and told my coach that I was ready to commit to the Wolfpack and we called coach Archer."
NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer and defensive backs coach Mike Reed spoke with Byrd on Monday. How did they take the news?
"They were all excited," said Byrd. "The first thing coach Archer did was ask me if I was serious. I told him I was and that I wanted to play for the Wolfpack. He told me the sun wasn't shining up there but things got a lot brighter for them now that they got that news.
"Defensive backs coach Mike Reed was happy too. He said he was glad that I committed because he wanted to coach me and they think I can come in there and make a big impact on their defense right away. He said they like how I'm physical and they like how I tackle for my size."
"State is a great school in the ACC," added Byrd. "I like how they play defense, and I think I'd fit in with their schemes. I'm hoping to go in there and get some [playing] time right away."
Byrd is scheduled to take his official visit to NC State in a couple of weeks, but that will depend on his schedule and the scheduled kickoff time of the Wolfpack's final home game against Miami.
"I'm supposed to go take my visit on the 29th," said Byrd. "I'll go if it is going to be an afternoon game. If they play it at noon I'll probably take it another week because I wouldn't make it up in time for the game."
With his decision out of the way, Byrd can now focus on Pahokee's playoff run and improving as a player. In the past five years, Pahokee has won four Class 2B State Championships, including back-to-back titles heading into the 2008 season. This year's team is 8-2 with losses at Byrnes (SC) and this past weekend against rival Glades Central (FL) in the annual Muck Bowl.
"We're ready," Byrd said of the playoffs. "It's win or go home.
"I want to keep getting better and keep working on my game. I've been timed at 4.49 in the 40 but I can always run a 4.5 flat. I'm going to keep working on that and getting stronger for college."