Justin Byrd turned 18 years old today.
He hopes to receive a late birthday gift in the coming weeks.
“I really want to play football on the collegiate level,” Byrd said.
For Byrd, who started at center the past two seasons for Ridgeway High, he has steadfastly made a strong case that he is worthy of playing at the next level. For starters, Byrd made continuous progress for a Roadrunner team that compiled a 16-10 mark during that stretch and earned consecutive playoff berths.
And, in addition to exhibiting assertiveness on the field for a player who did not attend any 7-on-7 camps during his prep stint, Byrd has shown he is just efficient in the classroom. The 5-foot-11 ½, 240-pound senior is expected to graduate in the top 25 percent of his class with a cumulative grade point average of 3.5.
Whether he signs a National Letter of Intent or not, he knows he is destined to set foot on a college campus this fall.
“This child of mine is the perfect example of someone who don’t give up,” said Byrd’s mother, Tamara Byrd. “That’s what I love about my baby. He’s just like his mom. We’re fighters.”
To his credit, Byrd took the initiative to enhance his player profile as a way of placing himself in position to land a football scholarship. Weeks before the 2013 season, Ridgeway coach Duron Sutton had each of his players to submit their email address so that he could install individual profiles onto to popular recruiting website.
As it turns out, that was just the vital resource Justin Byrd needed to create more exposure on the recruiting circuit, considering he didn’t garner as much attention from scouts as several of Ridgeway’s four-and-five-star prospects. Consequently, he assembled videos of several of his games and posted the footage to the website for college coaches to observe.
He reached out to 10 colleges to be exact, four of which gave him some feedback. Among the schools was South Atlantic Conference member Carson-Newman University, whose head coach Ken Sparks contacted Justin Byrd via text message Monday afternoon and has arranged for him to make an official visit to the Jefferson, Tenn. campus on Feb. 22. He was also contacted by Maryville College, Swaney University, and Cumberland University, news that brought him to smiles the day before he celebrated his 18th birthday.
“I found things that was saying as a high school athlete, you have to start early,” said Justin Byrd, explaining his reasoning for posting video footage on a recruiting website. “There were no restrictions on players really. So I looked up information and got coaches’ numbers and I called them.”
Justin Byrd’s determination in producing a recruiting profile stemmed from his favorable showing during a Cenral Arkansas University one-day football camp that was held in West Memphis last summer.
“I showed out on the offensive line,” he recalls. “One of the coaches said, ‘You got college potential, but you’re too small.”
As far as Justin Byrd was concerned, that was just the motivation he needed to persevere until recruiters took notice of his football prowess and love for the game.
“When I heard that, I knew I wanted to prove him wrong,” he said. “I wanted to prove everybody wrong.”
Given the considerable progress he’s made after securing a starting spot for Ridgeway last year, the player whom numberous scouts overlooked and one who admittedly contemplated transferring from Ridgeway in year’s past appears to be on track to landing a full-ride scholarship any day now. Although he has a few more scheduled visits in the coming weeks, he expects to make an official decision on where to play college fooball by month’s end.
“I’m eventually going to earn a full scholarship to a school,” Justin Byrd said. “I’m not going to stop until I get a full scholarship.”
Which, for him, would be a memorable late birthday gift.