One of the toughest lessons to learn is that in life things don’t always go the way you expect or want them to. This season, Utah State senior cornerback Quinton Byrd learned that the hard way.
In the early weeks of what he expected to be his final season at Utah State, Byrd encountered a “freak accident” at practice, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. He walked off the field that afternoon not recognizing the gravity of his injury.
“It was non-contact in a Thursday practice,” Byrd said. “We were getting ready to go to Colorado State, and I just planted wrong and it gave out on me.”
Just three games into the season, and Byrd was already done for the year.
The rules of college football, however, were put in place for situations just like this. With his redshirt year still available, Byrd has a fifth-year ahead of him and will return to the field next fall.
“That fifth year is very important to me. My career could easily just be over right now, but football is a sport that I love to play,” Byrd said. “I love to be a part of this program and so a fifth year will mean a lot.”
Byrd will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and will then begin pursuing his master’s degree.
“I’ll be able to get another year of school in and be able to better myself as a person both on and off the field,” Byrd said. “It will be good for me.”
In the meantime, Byrd spends his days in physical therapy and is on the sidelines helping the Aggies the best he can.
“He’s really my second coach,” cornerbacks coach Kendrick Shaver said. “He’s a smart kid who is very football-savvy. He’s still a leader, even though he is injured, and the guys look up to him.”
Shaver said the dedication and responsibility Byrd has shown, while dealing with his injury has been very impressive. It hasn’t stopped him from doing his part for the team.
“He provides the leadership and maturity that we need,” Shaver said. “He’s continued to do that through this injury which is showing what type of guy he really is.”
Though he can’t be a part of the action, Byrd is still actively dedicated to the Utah State football program and is learning a lot in the meantime.
“It’s teaching me a lot as far as being patient. It’s just not my time,” Byrd said. “When my time does come around, I’ll make the most of it.”
Born and raised in Miami, Fla., Byrd was excited to get out and try something new when it came time to go to college. When Utah State was his only Division I offer, he jumped at the chance to move to Logan.
“It was pretty much the second-to-last week of high school, and I was still looking for a college to go to. Coach (Corey) Raymond came down, he saw my tape and things just kind of took off from there,” Byrd said. “I committed right on the spot.”
While Raymond, the former cornerbacks coach, was visiting Byrd, he got a phone call from head coach Gary Andersen, which he said solidified his decision.
“I just talked with coach Andersen over the phone and knew he was the type of coach I wanted to play for,” Byrd said. “I’d never been to Utah, but I always wanted to play Division I ball outside of Florida.”
Once he was here, Byrd started making a name for himself among the USU secondary. Up until his injury, he had an appearance in all but two games throughout his career.
As a freshman, he logged eight tackles, but his sophomore season was the highlight. He finished the year with 31 tackles and was tied for the team-lead with three interceptions. Those three interceptions came in a span of just five games. As a junior, he had 12 tackles in 13 games, three each coming at Hawai’i and against San Jose State.
“My freshman year, I was a pretty good student of the game, I caught on pretty fast,” Byrd said. “You have to take advantage of your opportunities because they’re limited. Not too many freshmen play right as true freshmen. You come in looking to play, and you need to take advantage of that.”
Shaver said the coaching staff relies on Byrd for his stability and consistency.
“The thing about Quinton is that he’s the same guy. He’s very even-keeled, never gets too high or too low,” Shaver said. “That’s what you need. I expect leadership, maturity and contribution in every position, which he does.”
As he’s gone through his career as an Aggie, Byrd has found his place and his role on the team.
“I’m known as the guy who does things right. I just tend to follow those tendencies. It’s the way I was raised by my parents. If things weren’t done right, it would be a problem at home. If it wasn’t done right I just had to continuously do it over again,” Byrd said. “That gets boring, so I just do it right the first time and knock it out.”
This year’s senior class is among the last group to have really experienced both sides of the Utah State football program. Byrd has done his part to help get the program turned around but credits the camaraderie of the team to the success.
“This is by far the best year we’ve had since I’ve been here. We have a better team, better coaches, everyone just took it up a notch,” Byrd said. “We’ve grown closer together as a team, and I believe that plays a huge part in our success on the field.”
As he works through rehabilitation, Bryd is anxious to get back on the field. He is looking forward to returning to Utah State for a fifth season and is doing everything he can to be ready.
“Hard work pays off,” Byrd said. “Doing what’s right gets the results you want.”
Megan Allen writes for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company