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Inspirational ex-Jet Dennis Byrd killed in car crash

16 Dec 1989:  Defensive lineman Dennis Byrd of the New York Jets moves down the field during a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California.  The Rams won the game, 38-14. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport Getty Images

Dennis Byrd, a former Jets defensive lineman best known for battling back from a serious spinal injury and recovering to walk again, has died at the age of 50.

Byrd was killed in a car crash in Claremore, Oklahoma, today. According to Fox 23, Byrd was driving down the highway when his vehicle was struck head on by another vehicle, which had crossed the center line. A 12-year-old passenger in Byrd’s vehicle was hospitalized, as was the 17-year-old boy driving the vehicle that hit Byrd’s vehicle. Byrd was pronounced dead at the scene.

A second-round draft pick of the Jets in 1989, Byrd played four NFL seasons before suffering a serious neck injury in a collision with a teammate. Byrd was paralyzed and his career was over, but after lengthy physical therapy he was able to walk again. At the Jets’ home opener in 1993, Byrd walked to the middle of the field to represent his team in the pregame coin toss, and there he was given the team’s Most Inspirational Player Award, which is now known as the Dennis Byrd Award.

In 2012, when the Jets retired Byrd’s No. 90 jersey, he said that in his retirement from football he had found joy in coaching youth sports and speaking on behalf of people with disabilities.

“I really have loved coaching football and working with kids, talking about the lessons I’ve learned as an athlete and the journey as someone with a disability,” Byrd said then. “Football has always been, for me, a cornerpost of strength and a way to accomplish things in life, whether it’s on the field or just in maintaining a quality of life. All those lessons — dedication, perseverance, teamwork — they all dovetail nicely into living a blessed life.”

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45 Responses to “Inspirational ex-Jet Dennis Byrd killed in car crash”
  1. greenejoemean says: Oct 15, 2016 9:13 PM

    Wow. Life can be so unfair.

  2. boca12 says: Oct 15, 2016 9:16 PM

    Very so to hear this. Go do some damage on the big field!

  3. doggz109 says: Oct 15, 2016 9:22 PM

    Damn……childhood hero there. Tragic.

  4. granadafan says: Oct 15, 2016 9:22 PM

    Truly tragic. I was briefly paralyzed after a snowboarding accident and Byrd was an inspiration for me to work hard at rehabilitation. He never let his injury keep him down and for that I was truly grateful. RIP, Dennis Byrd

  5. samquix says: Oct 15, 2016 9:24 PM

    R.I.P Byrd. Godspeed.

  6. erif4 says: Oct 15, 2016 9:25 PM

    This is just terrible. Anyone who is a long time Jet fans knows Byrd could have been special. His career was cut short bye a freak accident but became a great inspirational story. I was at the game when his number was retired and tomorrow will wear the hat I bought in the parking lot in his honor. His immense faith was a huge reason he was able to walk again according to his book. Gone too soon. R.I.P #90

  7. runtheball says: Oct 15, 2016 9:29 PM

    This is terrible RIP!

  8. weepingjebus says: Oct 15, 2016 9:32 PM

    Awful news. He was one of the good ones. And while it would be irresponsible to speculate, I bet that 17 year old punk was texting.

  9. drakost says: Oct 15, 2016 9:33 PM

    Special person on and off the field. We lost a good today.

  10. otheirony says: Oct 15, 2016 9:34 PM

    Heaven is a better place tonight. RIP Mr. Byrd. Condolences to family and friends. Praying for the others that were injured. So sad.

  11. goraidersgospurs says: Oct 15, 2016 9:36 PM

    Good lord, praying there is not a another NFL today trying not to believe the 3s curse!!!

  12. Flash1287 says: Oct 15, 2016 9:39 PM

    Why do people down vote these comments?

  13. jag1959 says: Oct 15, 2016 9:42 PM

    weepingjebus says:
    Oct 15, 2016 9:32 PM
    Awful news. He was one of the good ones. And while it would be irresponsible to speculate, I bet that 17 year old punk was texting.

    Says it would be irresponsible to speculate…then proceeds to…smh.

    Gone to soon. RIP Dennis Byrd, condolences to his family and friends.

  14. coltsreign says: Oct 15, 2016 9:55 PM


  15. dohczeppelin says: Oct 15, 2016 10:03 PM

    Life is only temporary, and can be taken from you when you least expect it. Take a minute to appreciate everyone around you. Rest in peace.

  16. gohometrolls says: Oct 15, 2016 10:06 PM

    I remember being a kid and watching that game and feeling sorry for him but this actually hurts to hear Rest In Peace Dennis Byrd.

  17. mcdeez22 says: Oct 15, 2016 10:09 PM

    I remember reading his auto-biography probably close to 20 years ago. I was about 12 years old. Not a Jets fan and not sure why I picked it up but glad I did. Awesome story of a man defying the odds and walking again. So tragic that it ends like this. RIP.

  18. ajg314 says: Oct 15, 2016 10:16 PM

    My sincerest condolences to Dennis Byrd’s family. I have been a Jets fan since Day One and a 44-year season ticket holder and I was sitting in the mezzanine level on the side of the field where he was injured practically under my nose. His collision with Scott Mersereau is one of the hardest memories I’ve ever had and one that had a great impact on me. I was also there a few years later when he, his wife and his little daughter walked out to mid field on Opening Day. Listening to him speak and watching his little daughter playfully running around the field while he spoke brought tears to my eyes. And I’m not ashamed to admit that. His courage and determination will never be forgotten. RIP to a great person.

  19. cowboylover says: Oct 15, 2016 10:27 PM

    Such tragic and heart wrenching news.

  20. jake6879 says: Oct 15, 2016 10:28 PM

    Texting and driving is just as bad as drunk driving and I have zero doubt this kid was texting.. The text can wait.. I promise..

  21. frank booth says: Oct 15, 2016 10:31 PM

    Flash1287 says:
    Oct 15, 2016 9:39 PM
    Why do people down vote these comments?
    Because they can do it without showing their screen name. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it.

  22. ricko1112 says: Oct 15, 2016 10:32 PM

    Pats’ fan here.

    Who the Hell is giving thumbs down on this?

  23. mullman76 says: Oct 15, 2016 10:41 PM

    Brutal stuff.

    Kiss your loved ones, appreciate every day, every moment.

    RIP Dennis Byrd

    Condolences to his family and friends.

  24. joeflaccosunibrow says: Oct 15, 2016 10:46 PM

    Flash1287 says:
    Oct 15, 2016 9:39 PM
    Why do people down vote these comments?
    The thumbs up and thumbs down are very close together on my phone screen.

  25. martybugs2 says: Oct 15, 2016 10:52 PM

    Dennis Byrd you are the true meaning of an inspiration and a hero Rest in peace my brother, taken too soon .

  26. ganggreen11 says: Oct 15, 2016 10:58 PM

    Rip dennis..the good die young

  27. timmmah10 says: Oct 15, 2016 11:23 PM

    Punch in the gut here. I remember hearing the story of his injury and stubborn will to walk again, and surprising everyone by defeating the odds. Inspirational to every spinal cord trauma patient to say the very least.

    Also a sad story for that 17 year old kid, because his mistake will haunt him for the rest of his life.

  28. skunkb3ar says: Oct 16, 2016 12:01 AM

    From a pats fan, byrd was an inspiration to many and by all accounts a great man. Tragic loss. Condolences and rest easy now, big fella.

  29. edelmanfanclub says: Oct 16, 2016 12:04 AM

    Inspirational guy, insane he was able to walk again. I actually did not know he regained that ability. Its sad his time had to come now. RIP

  30. clamnewton says: Oct 16, 2016 12:33 AM

    Flash1287 says:
    Oct 15, 2016 9:39 PM
    Why do people down vote these comments?
    I’ve accidentally down voted comments before because I’m reading on my phone and the screen is small and the two are so close together.

    Very bummed to read this terrible news.

  31. levanderwilliams says: Oct 16, 2016 3:03 AM

    It really amazes me how life can be so unfair to good people, and so fortunate to the undeserving.

  32. littleseizures says: Oct 16, 2016 7:14 AM

    People have to stop looking at everything other than the road while driving. We need stricter laws & fines for distracted driving. People are dying because we’re addicted to phones.

  33. bigdog2372 says: Oct 16, 2016 8:35 AM

    Wow, extremely sad. He was an inspiration to so many.

  34. nyneal says: Oct 16, 2016 8:38 AM

    This is terrible news. Byrd was an amazing man. As a father of a son who is paralyzed because of a car accident, Byrd’s recovery was an inspiration.
    I can only speculate that the young man who hit Byrd’s vehicle might have been texting, because I see so many people doing that during the 150 + miles I drive each week.
    I believe that car manufacturers and cell phone companies must come together to put a computer chip in phones and cars so that the phones will not work (for calling, receiving a call, or texting) in a moving vehicle. It’s ridiculous that with all the laws we have, people are allowed to jeopardize other people while they text and drive.
    The truth is, it’s far more likely you’ll be hurt or killed by someone driving while they are texting than someone who’s driving under the influence of alcohol.
    RIP Dennis Byrd. You were an inspiration to millions of people.

  35. Pete Carroll is a 9/11 truther says: Oct 16, 2016 9:04 AM

    We love you Dennis, and you will be missed. Thanks for being a great inspiration to us Gen X-ers who watched your dominance on the field during our childhood, and your incredible recovery a little bit later.

    I’m not even a Jets fan, but I definitely remember who Dennis Byrd is.

  36. brendafortheboyz says: Oct 16, 2016 9:17 AM

    May God Bless his family and loved ones….gone way too young!

  37. patsifurnotcheetinurnottryin says: Oct 16, 2016 9:35 AM

    Very sad one tough person there on and off the field rip Mr Byrd you inspired many and to the thumbs down people have a little class and respect for his family and friends

  38. thepackerpoet says: Oct 16, 2016 9:42 AM

    A real tragedy would have been if an ex-packer had died.

  39. rockbot69 says: Oct 16, 2016 10:40 AM

    I was watching the game this happened in back in 92… I was 15 years old… Man I just could not believe it when I saw this when I got up… Horrible…. RIP

  40. bubbahotepp says: Oct 16, 2016 11:19 AM

    RIP Dennis. Be at peace now.

  41. finfansince68 says: Oct 16, 2016 11:59 AM

    My condolences to the Byrd family.
    The epitome of a truly inspirational man –
    one that will be missed.

  42. ilovemyravens says: Oct 16, 2016 12:22 PM

    Sad read, R.I.P. and condolences to the family.

  43. baldy55 says: Oct 16, 2016 12:59 PM

    So unfair. He was a great player for the Jets in his short career. He would have been an all-pro if not hurt. Amazing inspiration, Amazing man. Love to his family.

  44. rje49 says: Oct 16, 2016 7:23 PM

    littleseizures says:
    Oct 16, 2016 7:14 AM
    People have to stop looking at everything other than the road while driving. We need stricter laws & fines for distracted driving. People are dying because we’re addicted to phones.

    I only wish I could give 500 thumbs up for this. I see people using their phones while driving every single day, despite it being against the law here. They don’t care because they’re addicted.

  45. youbettercallsaul says: Oct 17, 2016 4:52 PM

    Very tragic. RIP

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