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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Rashad Byrd, LB, Georgia Southern

Rashad Byrd is a passionate leader for the Georgia Southern defense. He recently sat down with NFL Draft Diamonds writer Jimmy Williams.

Talk about your experience as a student. What is your major/minor? Did you participate in any other activities or campus organizations other than football?
I completed my undergraduate degree in 3 and a half years with a 3.0 GPA. My major was in Public Health, and I minored in Marketing. I also participated in the Student Athlete Advisory Council as well as Athletes in Action. With AIA, I was about to go on mission trips to Nicaragua, Cuba and Costa Rica. We did a lot of projects out there including providing water filters.

What do your teammates say is your best quality?
My teammates would highlight my leadership. I’m a 2-time team captain. I truly enjoy and am passionate about helping others on and off the field. It’s important to know the mental health of my peers and help out the best I can.

What kind of role do you see yourself in on the team? What scheme and/or position suits your skill set?
I have experience in both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme. I have mostly been the Mike or Will LB on the inside, although I have occasionally been the outside backer in certain situations. I’m willing to accept whatever role is given to me and do it to the best of my ability. The coaches at Georgia Southern trust me with a leadership role and move me around as needed. This past season, we had one of our players opt out, and I was playing the Mike backer towards the end of the season. Our Mike in a 3-4, plays on the strong side, and I was asked to blitz on the inside and outside. I feel that I can play any defense because I study the game a lot. I also love special teams. I played on the kickoff teams as a freshman, and have since played on both punt units.

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?
I played against a lot of great talent here in the Sun Belt Conference and all throughout the FBS. Cameron Peoples is a big explosive back out of Appalachian State. He keeps moving his feet and loves to win. I was also able to play against Joe Burrow in 2019. He commanded the field very well, and you just knew that LSU was on their way to a National Title.

Which one of your teammates impresses you the most?
One of my teammates that has really impressed me is Todd Bradley who’s also a LB. He’s just persevered through a lot. He battled cancer in high school and has had multiple knee injuries in college. He’s such a warrior. He keeps fighting despite his circumstances.

Edge rusher Raymond Johnson is also a South Carolina boy like myself. He’s a freak of an athlete who has a good motor and can do it all on defenses. He’s also hard to block and a very good basketball player. He’s taught me a lot of good pass rush moves.

Describe a time in your life when you were able to overcome a struggle.
My mom was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer when I was in middle school. I was depressed and scared. My mom told me that God has a plan for us, and that everything happens for a reason. Whenever you’re in a storm, there’s always light on the other side. Watching my mom struggle through cancer was hard. Yet, by the grace of God, she is now 13 years cancer free. Seeing my mom’s strong will through hard times has helped to learn to trust in God. I put it all in God’s hands. Nothing can break me. 

If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you play?
I was supposed to get drafted out of high school as a baseball player. I was named the All-Area South Carolina Player of the Year my junior year. My senior year, I was playing centerfield tracking a ball when I ran into a fence injuring my shoulder. Before that injury, I was able to throw a ball at 95 mph. I haven’t been able to throw that well since. That was a trying time because my mom was still battling cancer. I was blessed that I still had opportunities to play football.

What is something that you are most proud of? What would you say is your biggest achievement?
I am proud of being a 2-time team captain. It’s fun winning games and accolades, but making an impact on people’s lives is more important. In 2019, I was on the Wuerffel Trophy Watch List. I volunteered in an alternative school. I loved being able to help the younger generation and be a positive role model.

Describe one of the most memorable plays of your collegiate career.
In 2018, we were playing against Clemson. I was able to get an interception off of Trevor Lawrence. I actually tore my groin in that game, which should have ended my season according to some doctors. I was able to come back in 4 games and play against Appalachian State who was ranked at the time. That was the first time we beat them in several years. We finished that year with a 10-3 record which was the best record that Georgia Southern has had since moving to the FBS. We capped off that year by winning our bowl game against Eastern Michigan. That was a great year.

Do you have a favorite athlete or professional team? Is there a player that you model your game after?
I grew up a Patriots fan. Tom Brady is certainly one of the best ever, yet what made that team great is that they were always able to develop their team well. I look at players like Darius Leonard and Devin White who are more of my stature. Darius has done some amazing things since being in the league. Dude is a maniac on the field. Devin White is a sideline-to-sideline type of guy that I like to model myself after.

Who is your favorite music artist? What gets you pumped before a game?
My favorite music artist is Drake. My go to song that gets me pumped is “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins.

What is your favorite comfort food?
My Mom’s homemade cooking. Mac & Cheese and Sweet Potato Casserole. We actually get to pick the pecans fresh off the tree.

Do you have a favorite movie, TV show or actor?
My favorite actor is Denzel Washington. “The Help” is one of my favorite movies. My favorite TV show is “All American.”

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? Any secret talents?
I play guitar a little bit. I like to go fishing. I love playing video games like Madden and 2K.

Who or what motivates you the most?
My Mom motivates me the most. My position coach, Travis Cunningham, is also one of my main motivators. He’s a very well-respected coach who’s been coaching for a long time. Talking with him, he told me that he hasn’t had anyone drafted to the NFL yet. I feel that’s gonna change here soon.

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