FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Dennis Byrd gave the New York Jets a big lift before their playoff game against the New England Patriots.
Byrd, one of the most inspirational players in franchise history, addressed the team Saturday night at the Jets’ hotel and delivered what wide receiver Braylon Edwards called on Twitter, “the most inspirational message of my life.”
Byrd’s career ended in 1992, when he suffered a broken neck while colliding with teammate Scott Mersereau in a game against Kansas City, leaving him temporarily paralyzed. Three months later, after breaking the C-5 vertebra in his neck, he walked on crutches to a news conference at his hospital in Manhattan.
The next season, he walked out to midfield on his own for the coin toss, as the crowd at the Meadowlands gave him a standing ovation. The team’s most inspirational player award is named in Byrd’s honor, with running back LaDainian Tomlinson winning it this season.
Coach Rex Ryan, who called Sunday’s game against the Patriots in Foxborough, “the second-biggest in franchise history,” normally addresses the team the night before games. They are usually emotional, inspiring speeches, but this time, the coach stepped aside to have Byrd speak.
“As God is my witness, I have never been more ready to perform in my life,” Edwards tweeted. “Dennis Byrd, I respect, salute and honor you.”
No Jets player has worn Byrd’s No. 90 since his career ended. Byrd, 44, lives in Oklahoma.