The Tennessee Titansstayed close to home in round three of the 2016 NFL Draft by selecting Middle Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard with the first pick of the round.
A ultra-productive defender, Byard playeed in 49 games in his career and collected 19 interceptions in his four seasons as a Blue Raider. Included with those 19 interceptions (which are a school record) were a 377 return yards, also a school record. Byard returned four of those interceptions for touchdowns, ranked fifth in school history in tackles (312) and added five forced fumbles, and recovered one other fumble.
Named a permanent team captain, Byard participated in the Senior Bowl, but was omitted from the combine in Indianapolis. A first team All- Conference USA selection, and a Jim Thopre Award Finalist, are among the honors Byard garnered in his final season in Murfreesboro.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson spoke about Byard in his post round press conference following the team's selection of the night.
"We went over to Middle (MTSU) last week and spent two hours with him and at the Senior Bowl. I've got a close coaching friend over at Middle that has been raving about this kid to me for three years, how good he's going to be," said Robinson. "Outstanding ball skills. I think 19 interceptions speaks for itself and I think he had 370 plus tackles as well."
"He's a really productive football player, he's a great guy. He's a captain, he's a team first guy, I mean he embodies all the traits we're looking for," continued Robinson. "We think he can play free and strong, (safety) and he can play in the kicking game. He's really good with the ball in his hands when he picks it off."
Robinson also spoke of the intelligence of Byard and his ability to learn the Titans terminology in their meetings with him.
"I tell you, when we sat down with this guy, this guy is sharpe," said Robinson. "We installed defenses with this guy and our defenses and talked through his film study and what we would call it ino our terminology and after 15-20 minutes of install with Coach (Dick) LeBeau and Deshea ( DB coach Townsend), I mena he was rattling off our calls relative to Alabama's formations relatively quickly, so I think from a mental and learning standpoint, he's going to be a quick study.
For his part, Byard was excited about being the newest Titan.
"Man it feels great, you know to be able to drive only 30 minutes up the street from MTSU and play for the Titans, It's the greatest feeling in the world," said Byard. "I'm at a loss for words right now. I've got my family with me and I'm just very excited ."
An engaging, energetic and talkative young man, Byard gave the quote of the night when asked who his favorite NFL player was.
""I'm my fav NFL player now," said Byard.