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  • Kevin Lidlow

Former Jet legend Dennis Byrd Dies of a Head on Collision

Sad day for New York Jets fans as former defensive end legend Dennis Byrd dies of a car accident today. You might remember Dennis Byrd as a guy who gave everything he had on that field, or maybe a guy who was extremely motivated to walk again after a big hit collision with former teammate Scott Mersereau, trying to sack former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback David Krieg. Either way, Dennis Byrd will always be remembered not only as a great athlete, but a wonderful man.

On November 29th, 1992, the New York Jets battled the Kansas City Chiefs in East Rutherford New Jersey, at the old Giants stadium. The Jets overall record that year was 4 wins and 12 loses, not getting a single win till week 5 against the New England Patriots. At the time Pete Carroll was the Jets defensive coordinator and was all but familiar with this particular play. Byrd and Mersereau were closing in on a sack of Krieg, but he steps up in the pocket and both teammates collide into each other. Byrd slamming headfirst into Mersereau’s chest and falls right onto the turf, laying motionless. I don’t remember the game because I wasn’t even born yet but both my father and my uncle were at the game and he told me that the stadium was so quiet, that you can drop a pin and people will hear it.

After the game, Carroll drove up to Manhattan to check up on Byrd, and the doctor’s said that he had a neck injury that left him paralyzed. Just when things only seemed worse at the stadium, it got even more worse at Lenox Hill Hospital. He was not prepared to see his own player and friend die. “When I got there, they were wheeling him from one room where they were doing tests to another, and he was lying on his back and he started to get sick," said Carroll, now the Seattle Seahawks' head coach. "He was starting to throw up, which was frightening to the nurse, because you could literally suffocate." So Carroll, some of his players and the medical staff had to react immediately by tilting him up to make sure that he didn’t choke on his own vomit.

It was such a horrific day, but that was what made it so inspirational. Dennis Byrd was told that he may never walk again, but that did not stop him. He worked his butt off going through rehab and physical training to gain motion from the waist down. 20 years later, Byrd returned to New York, at what it is now MetLife stadium to have his jersey retired in 2012. Byrd beat all odds and walked on his own power. "I'm a 46-year-old man now, and I'm able to look back, to understand, to appreciate and be thankful for the experience that I had in New York as an athlete and as a player," Byrd said

He was still recovering from that injury, he was such an inspiration to not only Jets fans, but to people around the world who knew his story. I would seriously recommend people to read his book “Rise and Walk”. As a football player, I knew that if at any time I was feeling pain or sore and didn’t want to keep going, I think of Dennis Byrd because he never gave up when he was trying to learn how to walk again, so who was I to say I can’t go on because I was sore or beat up? Byrd will be missed in not only his family’s hearts but in all the people in the world hearts as well, including Jets fans. Rest in peace Dennis Byrd, thank you for never giving up and showing people that we can accomplish anything.

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