Dennis Byrd had an onfield collision with another JETS teammate (Scott Mersereau) as the two were trying to sack a quarterback. The QB stepped up into the pocket and Byrd went helmet first into his teammates chest subsequently causing compression on his cervical vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed.
He was able to battle through and walk again, though he never fully recovered, walking with some difficulty and going through continuous rehabilitation during the years since.
Unfortunately he couldn’t battle through again.
The Jets defensive end had his number retired in a 2012 halftime ceremony.
Byrd was also a Tulsa,Ok resident.
The defensive end was rushed to the hospital where he learned he suffered a broken neck that paralyzed him from the waist down.
Dennis wrote a book in 1993 called “Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd,” which detailed how he relied on his faith and family to push through his injury to recover and serve as an inspiration to others who went through similar situations.
His highly inspirational story also became the subject of a TV movie starring actor-director Peter Berg.
Byrd attended college at the University of Tulsa before playing four seasons for the Jets beginning in 1989. In his first two seasons, he recorded 28 sacks and 110 tackles.
Also, Lincoln Christian’s football stadium is named in his honor.
You can see the video of his hit via this link: Dennis Byrd onfield collision
According to officers, the 17 year old driver of the SUV over-corrected when his SUV was on the shoulder, then crossed the center line, hitting another SUV traveling south head on (Byrd’ 2004 H2 Hummer).
Dennis Byrd was pronounced dead at the scene due to massive injuries.
N.Y. Jets owner Woody Johnson spoke of Dennis:
“We are all devastated by the untimely loss of Dennis Byrd,” “Soft-spoken and strong-willed, the inspiration he provided to all not only by his play on the field but from the way he overcame life’s obstacles was remarkable by any measure.”
University of Tulsa Athletic Director Derrick Gragg released the following statement:
“We extend our sincere condolences to Dennis’ wife Angela, their children and the entire Byrd family. Dennis exemplified true determination, tremendous heart and humility throughout his life. He had a tremendous playing career at TU and professionally with the New York Jets. He overcame great personal adversity after a life-altering injury on the football field. We know that Dennis touched numerous lives and will be missed by many.”
Tulsa news 9 carried the story