They say you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and Dominique Byrd can certainly attest to that.
One of the newest members of the Washington Redskins, the tight end says although he had a solid career at USC and went on to get selected in the third round of the 2006 draft by St. Louis, he never actually loved or appreciated his skills as a football player or the opportunity to play professionally.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Byrd appeared in a combined 14 games and recorded only six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. But by 2008, Byrd was out of the league. He made a brief return with Arizona in 2009, but didn’t appear in a game, and then spent 2010 waiting for an opportunity that never came.
Byrd signed with the Seattle Seahawks in January, and appeared in one game this season, but got released again.
For Byrd, the last month has consisted of a lot of self-examination, a lot of training, and a lot of prayer. His phone finally rang early Tuesday morning, and Byrd quickly scrambled to fly from Los Angeles to Ashburn to join the Washington Redskins, who had just placed Chris Cooley on injured reserve.
“I got the call at 6 or 7 in the morning, and you’ve just got to be ready to go,” Byrd said. “If you’re not ready going into a situation you find out real fast that you’re not where you need to be so you just want to make sure every day that you’re doing what you need to do.”
Byrd hopes that this time around he can finally seize the opportunity before him and that he can settle in with the Redskins, whose top playmaker is now his former USC teammate and fellow tight end Fred Davis.
“I think that I have a unique position where the game of football was taken away from me for some immature things that happened early on in my career, so I gained a love for the game kind of late,” Byrd said. “I think college, early in my pro career, I was just taking for granted what I had and didn’t really love the game. I actually gained a love for working out, too. Kinda weird. You think if a guy’s already in the league, he loves the game. But I asked God for another opportunity and had faith in myself and I’m here.”
Byrd was two years ahead of Davis at USC, but in the last two days, he has picked his friend’s brain often while working to learn the Redskins’ offense. Byrd said he’s still learning how coaches want to use him.
Mike Shanahan said Byrd was the best pass-catching tight end on the free agent market, and Kyle Shanahan said Byrd’s athleticism made him attractive to Washington.
“He is a guy who we know is athletic and he can separate and do some things in the pass game,” the offensive coordinator said. “I wanted to bring in a guy like that to see what he can do here and take a look at him.”
Davis, who has the most familiarity with Byrd, said Byrd can help in a variety of ways.
“He’s a good receiver, runs good routes, decent blocker, good downfield threat, he’ll provide depth in case something happens,” Davis said. “He’s got to learn the offense first, and it’ll be a little while, but he’ll provide depth.
“It’s kind of funny to be in the same situation like [at USC],” Davis added. “Similar colors and everything, same jersey numbers and everything.”
Before this season, Davis wore No. 86, but at the start of training camp made the switch to 83, which was his college number. No one had claimed 86, so when Byrd arrived, he was able to pick that number, which he wore in college.
“It’s great to be back with Fred,” Byrd said. “Not being in football, I got a chance to watch some more of the games and see what he’s doing on the field. Everybody sees he’s been doing a great job all year and it’s great to be back with him because you have some familiarity and you can discuss the offense with him. I think we’ll be fine. Me being here is just a good opportunity.”