Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Some of the fans who came to the North Augusta football team's spring game may have been surprised.
Rashad Byrd, a potential candidate to be the next quality Yellow Jacket running back, was nowhere to be found on offense. Instead, the rising junior was suited up for the defense.
First-year head coach Brian Thomas said Byrd playing linebacker wasn't just an experiment.
“He's going to play more defense, probably, than offense,” Thomas said.
Byrd, who said he has played linebacker since “little kid days,” isn't worried about moving away from serving primarily as running back. Instead, he's focusing on helping the Yellow Jackets continue the string of success they've had.
“It's whatever helps the team the most,” he said. “It's not about yourself all the time.”
That focus extends to his goals for the year. More than tackle totals or individual accomplishments, Byrd wants to do something North Augusta hasn't done since 1989 – win a state championship.
“One of my main goals is to win a championship,” he said. “It's something I haven't done.”
Thomas said that variety will continue, as the North Augusta coaches seek to use Byrd in every aspect of the defense, from pass coverage to pass rushing to run stopping.
“We're going to use his athleticism to do a lot of different things,” Thomas said. “We're going to put him in position to make plays.”
For Byrd's part, he said the mental aspect of playing linebacker was most attractive to him. Because of the multiple responsibilities, he said the position required a high level of preparation and allowed for a more complete view of the situation at hand.
“Well, you get to see more of the plays,” Byrd said. “You've got to study a lot.”
Beyond the playbook, Byrd has an example to follow that's more than adequate. His brother, CJ Byrd, was a multi-sport star for the Yellow Jackets and played both ways on the football team before going on to the University of Georgia.
A highly-recruited safety, the elder Byrd has already motivated his younger brother.
“He tells me, I don't have the defensive mentality. But it looks like I'm going to prove him wrong this year,” he said.
And Rashad isn't content to simply have the right mindset. He wants to exceed what his brother accomplished.
“I feel like I've got to outdo him because CJ was a big man at North Augusta,” he said.
North Augusta defensive coordinator Derrick Quinn, who noted Byrd's 6-foot-2 frame and “ball awareness” as assets, had high praise for his linebacker. While he noted that he still needed to add to his 200-pound weight and had room to improve, the junior's target of outperforming his brother isn't out of reach.
“He's got all the ability to be one of the best defensive players I've ever coached,” Quinn said.