Utah State football: Quinton Byrd has found his way back
After losing last year to an ACL tear, senior defensive back returns in nickel role.
Published: September 18, 2013 06:00PM
Updated: February 14, 2014 11:34PM
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Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune USU cornerback Quinton Byrd following practice on the Logan, Utah campus Wednesday, September 18, 2013.

Logan • If Quinton Byrd’s name isn’t mentioned much in a game, he’s probably done his job.

The senior defensive back has been a big part of Utah State’s pass coverage this year, working his way into nickel packages while also competing on special teams. His mark is one of a quiet technician who can cover his man, or bring him down before he gets too far.

“He’s always been about technique since the day I met him, man” cornerbacks coach Kendrick Shaver said. “You could film him for a technique tape. He’s so mature, if I left the meeting room, he could run the cornerbacks meeting.”

Leadership is expected of any senior on the team, but Byrd has earned his respect. For the last year, teammates and coaches watched him slowly work his way back from an ACL tear.

He was cleared for fall camp, and hasn’t taken a day for granted ever since.

“This game can be taken away from you in a second,” Byrd said. “I’m blessed to have another opportunity.”

There’s no great war story behind Byrd’s injury. It was a freak accident during a practice early last season, making a move he’s made hundreds of times.

He was practicing at Romney Stadium and making a break. His foot caught in the turf. His knee buckled.

In an instant, his senior season was over. But although it gave him anguish to not be on the field, Byrd said he was able to refocus after he learned he would get a medical redshirt year.

“After the doctor told me, I just had a mindset to get back on the field,” he said. “Everything starts with how you view it. Last season wasn’t my time.”

Byrd involved himself in the Aggies’ season in other ways, working as a coach in between his rehab. He threw himself into film study and learning the game. He celebrated others’ successes, as Utah State went 11-2 and fellow corner Will Davis went on to be drafted by the Miami Dolphins.

“I give Will all the praise,” he said. “Watching him get drafted and all that, I felt like it was me.”

This season, while his coaches have been more cautious in bringing him into more snaps, Byrd has tried to take every chance he can get. His knee, like his game, has been quietly steady.

Off the field, coaches can see that he’s matured as well.

“Those are the guys that you love coaching,” Matt Wells said. “He’s not low-maintenance, he’s no-maintenance. He takes care of his grades — he’s already graduated. He’s a great kid all-around and I’m happy for him.”

Like his teammate Davis last year, Byrd hopes his next step is the pro game. But he’s also more keenly aware that a playing career doesn’t wait for everyone.

And even if he does make it to the NFL, he knows the unexpected can always cut a career short.

Byrd plans on becoming a coach one day. He wants to teach others the game. And a few of his coaches think he could be good at it.

“He has the maturity to be a coach and a good role model,” Shaver said. “It can be tough on a young coach. It’s a grind. But he has that mentality, and he can get through it. I hope he sticks around here, to be honest.”

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon

Quinton Byrd file

• Seventh on the team with 11 tackles this year

• Redshirted last season after an ACL tear

• Three interceptions, four pass deflections as a sophomore.

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