Skip to main content

Byard's College Jersey to be Retired

Middle Tennessee State's football program has only retired one other number, and that was more than half a century ago.

NASHVILLE – It is possible that Middle Tennessee State University will never have another player like Kevin Byard.

It is now certain that they never will have another one dress like him.

Representatives from the school announced following Thursday’s Tennessee Titans training camp practice that Byard’s No. 20 will be retired. It will the second number in the history of the football program and the sixth in the history of the school’s athletics department, which dates back more than a century, to be raised to the rafters.

“I’m honored. I’m almost at a loss for words,” Byard said. “I’m so grateful. I know my mother would be very proud of me in this moment right now. … It’s just a great honor.”

Byard made his way to MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tenn., from Lithonia, Ga., where he was a Class AAAAA all-state performer and an all-region high school player on both sides of the ball.

He set Blue Raiders records with 19 career interceptions, four interception returns for touchdowns and 377 interception return yards. He broke up 17 other passes, had a hand in 25 turnovers (five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery in addition to his interceptions) and finished his career sixth all-time in tackles at the school with 312.

After he redshirted as a true freshman in 2011, Byard started 46 of 49 games over the next four seasons.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

“He did everything right off the field,” MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. “He had an incredible work ethic. He was extremely focused on his goals, what he wanted to accomplish not only as a student, not only as a football player but as a man.

“He came in as a professional. He knew how to work. He worked hard. He kept his nose down and just grinded. That’s what I appreciate about him – just how hard he worked.”

The Titans officially made Byard a professional when they selected him in the third round (64th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. That made him one of 14 MTSU players all-time to be drafted, and – with 97 games played through his first six seasons – he is on the verge of becoming the seventh member of that group with at least 100 career NFL appearances.

Byard’s 23 interceptions since the start of 2017 are more than all but two NFL players over that span. He is a two-time Pro Bowler (2017, 2021), a first-team All-Pro (2017) and has been a team captain each of the last three seasons.

“When you’ve got one of you own, a guy who’s been through these same meetings, sat in the same chair, ate the same food, was in the same locker room, it hits home a little bit more,” Stockstill said. “We talk about Kevin all the time. I talk about him constantly to our current players and to the guys we are recruiting.”

Byard joins quarterback Teddy Morris, whose No. 14 was retired back in 1965, as the only MTSU football players to be so honored.

“At the end of the day, without hard work, you can’t have any success," Byard said. "All I did was try to work my butt off, try to set a good example for guys under me, for anybody. And I’m still here. I’m here, and I still have my head down. I’m not sitting here trying to say I made it because I got my jersey retired. But at the end of the day, this is a great honor, and I’m just so appreciative for this moment.”