Byrd hopes to make history as return man

In the latest installment of GamecockAnthem's can't-miss series with South Carolina's 2011 signees, Anthem talks one-on-one with dynamic incoming wide receiver Damiere Byrd, who believes he can use his world class speed to make history as a return specialist for USC. Read inside as Anthem goes in-depth with the New Jersey speedster on a variety of intriguing topics.

The following interview with 2011 wide receiver signee Damiere Byrd took place before he enrolled at South Carolina for the Summer II session: profile: Damiere Byrd

Question: I understand that you had an exciting opportunity to go over to Japan and compete for the U.S. Juniors Team (ages 16-19) in an international track meet earlier this year. Can you talk about that experience?

Byrd: That was a really good experience. They only took fifteen of us over there, and obviously going to another country is a whole experience in itself, but being able to run for my country was just amazing.

Question: How did you do in the competition over there?

Byrd: I did pretty good. I ended up getting second overall (in the 60-meter), and I happened to be the U.S. number one for this year.

Question: With your tremendous speed, I'm sure a lot of people are wondering what the fastest times are that you have recorded?

Byrd: The fastest official time for the forty (yard dash) was a 4.26. The fastest official 100 (meter dash) was a 10.36.

Question: Switching gears to football, you obviously have world class speed, but what all do you bring to the table on the football field?

Byrd: I have speed, elusiveness, and knowledge of the game.

Question: What areas would you still like to improve in as a football player as you transition to the college level?

Byrd: Blocking and being able to read coverages better.

Question: What kind of personal goals have you set for yourself in your first year at Carolina?

Byrd: I just want to come in and hopefully contribute to the team in any way that I can. I want to be able to make a smooth transition into my life as a college student-athlete.

Question: Which wide receiver position does USC plan to start you out at?

Byrd: As far as I know, it's going to be the slot position. I can play outside or inside though. I've played both.

Question: What have the South Carolina coaches told you about the possibility of coming in and contributing early as a return specialist, in addition to wide receiver?

Byrd: They have said I'll have a good chance to compete, and I've been working on the return game a lot because I know that I could possibly find my way back there right off the bat. I'm excited, and they've said they're excited. They've told me I'll get my chance. I handled (kickoff and punt) returns practically my whole high school career. I'm comfortable doing that.

Question: Are you aware of how long it's been since South Carolina had a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown?

Byrd: From what I heard, it's been about six or seven years since they've had a touchdown return. I plan to change that.

Question: With all of the talent that the Gamecocks have coming back on offense this year, with players like Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, and Stephen Garcia, in addition to talented newcomers like yourself, how good do you think the Carolina offense can be this year?

Byrd: I definitely think we can improve a lot. I think with the new players coming in, we can relieve the pressure on everybody else and really build on the success they've had.

Question: When did you first start playing football, and when exactly did you realize that you wanted to pursue a future in football?

Byrd: I started playing when I was in second grade, and I think right off the bat I wanted to keep playing. I wanted to play in college and things like that.

Question: For a player with your skill-set, is there any player that you model your game after or look up to on the football field?

Byrd: DeSean Jackson is probably the main one. We're a similar build. I met him in person, and we're practically the same size. I feel I have the same speed, elusiveness, and ability to beat corners and get over top of the safeties.

Question: Gearing up for the jump to the college level, what has a typical day consisted of for you workout-wise?

Byrd: I've been working out, doing a lot of running and on-the-field drills and stuff.

Question: What is your accurate height and weight these days?

Byrd: Right now I'm 5-10, 165.

Question: Looking back on the recruiting process, many recruits have said going through that process is a once in a lifetime experience. Now that you've gone through it, what would you say really stands out to you about your recruitment as such a highly recruited prospect?

Byrd: The process itself was cool. The thing that really stood out to me was after all of the hard work you put in, you actually feel wanted. Coaches call you almost everyday, and reporters call a lot. You really feel like you're somebody important, like your hard work has paid off.

Question: You ultimately ended up signing with South Carolina, but what were the other main schools that you were focused on down the stretch of your recruitment?

Byrd: The other schools were Iowa, Florida, and Ole Miss.

Question: What was it about South Carolina that really stood out to you and made the difference in your decision to sign with them?

Byrd: Really, the main reason was I was comfortable with the football staff. I was also the most comfortable with their track team. I liked the atmosphere, the campus itself, and the people on campus.

Question: Do you definitely plan to compete in both football and track at USC?

Byrd: Yes, sir. I do.

Question: Being from New Jersey, how much in-state pressure was there for you to stay close to home and play for Rutgers?

Byrd: There was a lot of pressure, but from the beginning I didn't really want to stay in-state. It wasn't that hard for me to actually make that decision, because I didn't want to stay in the state from the get-go.

Question: South Carolina had some success in recruiting New Jersey last year by signing you, Tanner McEvoy, and Sheldon Royster. How exciting was it for you to see some of the top talent in your home state decide to play with you at USC?

Byrd: It was really exciting, because we've been on seven-on-seven teams together and stuff. We've pretty much been to every camp together, we always were there at the same time. It's good to know that I won't be the only New Jersey player there.

Question: Can you talk about the relationship that you've built with Coach G.A. Mangus, your Carolina recruiter, and the impact that he had on your decision?

Byrd: Coach Mangus is great. Without him, I probably wouldn't have even gotten that close to South Carolina. He built a good relationship with my mom and my dad and also my little brother. I pretty much talk with him once a week, and I like him a lot.

Question: There's obviously a lot of talent that comes out of your state every year. With the success that Coach Mangus and South Carolina had this year in recruiting New Jersey, do you think it's possible that you, Tanner, and Sheldon might have started a trend, possibly even a pipeline for USC in recruiting your home state in the future?

Byrd: I think so. Especially if me, Sheldon, and Tanner can have success on the field, I really think we can get more players down there. A lot of people this way really do like South Carolina, so all we need is some New Jersey faces down there and I feel like we can start getting everybody to come there.

Question: Did you get to know many of the other Gamecock signees pretty well through the recruiting process?

Byrd: Yeah, there were two weekends where we got everybody to go down there, and we pretty much got to spend time with everybody. That was really good. It's exciting to know that we have such a highly talented group of guys coming in together. To be able to bond with them over the next four years and to continue elevating our program, it'll be great.

Question: What jersey number will you be wearing at USC?

Byrd: As far as I know, I'll wear #3.

Question: Has anyone told you what to expect with Coach Craig Fitzgerald's strength and conditioning program when you get to Carolina?

Byrd: From what I hear, it'll be tough. It's going to be hard, but I expected that. I'm excited, and I know it'll be worth it.

Question: There's a strong feeling down in South Carolina that the Gamecocks are on the verge of competing for the school's first ever SEC Championship and possibly even a national championship. How exciting is it for you to be joining the USC program now and to have the chance to do something that has never been done before?

Byrd: It's exciting. It's always good to be a part of something that happens first. It's not like I'm coming in and everybody's already won their second and third championship. We're going to be the first, and you never forget the first.

Question: Is there a certain game on USC's 2011 schedule that you look at and say, I can't wait to play against those guys?

Byrd: Probably Florida, because growing up they were my favorite team. Pretty much throughout the whole recruiting process that's where everybody thought I was going to go. I'm excited to play them.

Question: After growing up following the Gators, what are you looking forward to now about playing in a Steve Spurrier coached offense?

Byrd: They spread the ball around a lot, and they like to pass the ball. They're really good at that, so I'm excited to be a part of it.

Question: Being from up in New Jersey, how familiar are you with the intensity of the rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson?

Byrd: I'm well aware of it, actually. My first visit to South Carolina was during the week we played Clemson (in 2009), so I got to see it first hand.

Question: Do you have any message that you'd like to pass on to Gamecock fans before you officially arrive on campus?

Byrd: Look out for me on special teams. If I'm back there, be prepared to watch history happen.

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