This past summer, Kevin Byard signed a five-year, $70.5 million contract extension with the Tennessee Titans, making him the highest-paid safety in the NFL’s history. He’s in his fourth season, but he’s still not known as an NFL star, which is a reflection in part of his quiet character.
Kevin Byard is incredibly driven
In an interview with Bleacher Report, Byard talked about the motivation he got from growing up in poverty. Byard says he still lives in “survival mode,” afraid any relaxing or bragging of greatness will lead to his downfall and a return to struggles.
After his parents’ divorce, he moved with his mother and six siblings from Philadelphia to Atlanta, where they were evicted eight times, the last just days before Byard’s selection in the 2016 draft. He headed to Middle Tennessee State for college determined to make the most of his opportunity to improve his life and his family’s. Picturing his younger sisters helped him push harder as he trained.
His efforts are reflected in the success he has on the field. In college, he started all four years and each year had four, five, six, and then four interceptions. In the NFL, he was a top-performing defensive back in 2017 and 2018, with 177 tackles, 12 interceptions, and 24 passes defended. So far in the 2019 season, he’s had three interceptions.
Today his personal drive includes a lot of film study along with relentless workouts and dedication to his team. He even attended practice this summer just hours after the birth of his daughter.
He told TitansOnline.com, “I could have told (them), ‘I’m tired, I’m not going to be able to practice’. But that’s not the kind of person I am. I wanted to be here for my brothers.” He isn’t concerned with being famous. Instead, Byard is planning to stay under the radar and aim for Super Bowl wins and ultimately the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Confidence is not an issue
While Kevin Byard doesn’t shout about his greatness, he does still have supreme confidence in his abilities and sometimes shares his ambitious plans with the media.
During the 2017 playoffs, Byard said his goal was to make Tom Brady look like Blake Bortles. Byard had recently caught two Bortles interceptions. (Instead, the Patriots had a resounding win with no interceptions.)
Byard sees this as not being afraid of a challenge, regardless of the opponent. And, regarding that large contract, Byard expects to work for every bit of it, telling the Nashville Scene, “You see a big number — you see a big contract, but my whole mindset is, ‘I’m going to earn every single dollar, every single penny.'”
No “clout-chasing” for Kevin Byard
Byard actually aspires to be like Tom Brady, whom he views as working and winning “quietly.” He contrasts this with players who are “clout-chasing” and talking up their own abilities on social media.
Byard’s drive and character stand in contrast to other NFL players like Antonio Brown, whose promising career was undermined by erratic behavior in person and on social media. And, he differs from Jalen Ramsey, who arrived at training camp this past summer in an armored truck with comedian HaHa Davis and bags of fake money.
Byard’s lower-key attitude may contribute to his being less well known. While he earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2017, he wasn’t included on this year’s NFL Top 100 players list. In addition, Byard came from a less well-known college and plays in a relatively smaller market.
He isn’t silent though and does set public goals. In 2017, he predicted double-digit turnover and then ended the season with eight interceptions and two fumble recoveries. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, his Titans teammates spoke of him as a great leader and a great teammate. Ultimately, Byard wants the greatness of his career to speak for itself.