Byrd and his girlfriend were driving home for the holidays when a tire on their car blew out. Both were ejected from the vehicle, and Byrd died instantly. His girlfriend is in critical condition at a New Mexico hospital.
Byrd, a 20-year-old redshirt sophomore from San Diego, Calif, had become an impact player for the Lobos, recording three solo tackles in their 45–37 loss to Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday. In two years with the team, Byrd had logged 91 tackles with four interceptions, three of which he snagged in 2015 to tie him for team lead.
“This is an absolute tragedy. Markel Byrd was an outstanding person and student-athlete and we will miss him,” head coach Bob Davie said in a statement. “I was with the family late Tuesday night and obviously they are devastated. Our thoughts and prayers go to them. Markel will forever be a member of our family.”