Dennis Byrd Was Worried His Pre-Game Speech Would Flop

January 21, 2011 – 8:00 am by Eric Schmoldt

By now, the story is well-known, but just in case you missed it, former New York Jets defensive linemen Dennis Byrd returned to the Jets to give a pre-game speech to the team before last weekend’s upset of the New England Patriots.

Byrd, who was critically injured and temporarily paralyzed during a play in 1992, gave such a motivating speech that it seemed to inspire each and every player to take it with them on the field. Byrd says he left them with the statement that he would trade everything he has today to play one more football game.

He also says in the following interview that he was worried his speech would flop. It’s safe to say that it did just the opposite. The Jets will carry Byrd and his message going forward, even making him a part of the coin flip during this weekend’s AFC title tilt at Pittsburgh.

Dennis Byrd joined ESPN Radio New York with The Michael Kay Show to discuss the impact his speech had on the Jets, the messages he delivered, if he believed that the Jets would win the game following the speech, being a part of the coin flip this coming Sunday and who he expects to win that game.

If he was surprised that his speech had such a great impact on the Jets:

“No, not as I was talking to them. Initially, I was worried that what I had to say was going to flop because they were so quiet and they were so attentive. It was one of those things where  you just had them as a captive audience and I was really, really thrilled to have the opportunity. They took what I said, they responded and it’s one of those things that resounds to an athlete.”

What drives an athlete?:

“If I could break it down just very quickly, I talked to them about a man in competition has his body, his mind and his spirit. And there will be times in competition where he’s facing the toughest opponents that his body will get to a point where it will tell him that it has nothing left to give, his mind will get pushed to a place where his mind will tell him it’s not worth it … and it’s in those moments that a man’s will that shows its worth.”

On if he believed the Jets were going to win after he delivered his speech:

“I knew that they were going to win before I got there. The things that I could see in the organization, the purpose that they had in what they were doing, there was the makeup of an upset. It’s that will. You could see it in their eyes. … The final thing I left them with, I told them this: It’s been 18 years since I played the game, 18 years since they cut this jersey off of my body laying there on that football field. And there hasn’t been a day go by, that I wouldn’t trade every physical possession that I have to play one more game, to be in one more play.”

On being part of the coin flip this Sunday:

“To get to be any part of it, honestly, is an honor. It’s been a very humbling and wonderful experience for me to get to be just a part of the piece of the puzzle. … The guys that are playing today are standing on the shoulders of the men that came before them. … It’s a precious gift that Coach Ryan is so interested and concerned with people understanding that there’s a history to this game.”

How he expects the Pittsburgh-New York game to play out:

“I’ve got to tell you, this is going to be a fight, but Gang Green is going to pull it out. This is going to be a game to watch, just a fantastic game, but I’m obviously pulling for the Jets. I truly believe they are going to win the ballgame.”

Listen to Dennis Byrd on ESPN Radio New York here (Interview begins as 12:20)

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