When asked about the last he was burned by a receiver, Naples cornerback Tyler Byrd doesn’t hesitate. The receiver’s name, the opponent, the year and what he did wrong erupt out of the senior’s mouth.
Standout Immokalee receiver J.C. Jackson got the better of him three times during a 33-27 Indians victory in 2013. Byrd recalls he didn’t have inside leverage on two Jackson slants and the other was a perfect timing route.
“That was the last time. You don’t forget it,” Byrd said. “It’s motivated me for the past two years.”
Since then the four-star recruit who is committed to Miami has served as an eraser of opposing teams’ best receivers. ESPN ranks him as the 51st best recruit in the country and he tops The News-Press’ list of top recruits in Southwest Florida.
“God gave him a different DNA,” Naples coach Bill Kramer said. “He’s the top 1 percent of 1 percent of athletes.”
During the Golden Eagles 9-3 2014 campaign, Byrd received few opportunities to show how valuable he is with the ball in the air, finishing with just two interceptions and four passes defensed.
With Byrd locking down one side of the field with no safety help, the Naples defense was essentially playing 10-on-10.
“I take pride in my team not having to worry about a certain side of the field,” Byrd said. “They can come with a hard blitz on my side and know I still have it covered.”
It starts at the line of scrimmage with the 6-foot, 194-pound Byrd overpowering receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Kramer said he’s mastered inside and outside coverage and on the off chance a receiver gains a step on him the chase is a thing of beauty to watch.
“When you think he’s beat, he’s not. He’s going to run it down,” Kramer said. “But everyone knows he can cover. That’s not what the college coaches are coming to see.”
Schools like Miami, Florida, Ole Miss, USC and Tennessee were impressed with Byrd’s dominance in run support and his ability to run through a ball carrier.
The phone calls, however, are few and far between these days since he caused a stir around the state by de-committing from Florida and committing to Miami.
Byrd wasn’t intending to overshadow recruits in the Class of 2015 who were signing their letters of intent, but he and Kramer said the coaching transition between the fired Will Muschamp and new hire Jim McElwain was far from seamless.
Kramer said it was hard to get straight answer from the new coaching staff when he asked whether Byrd remained on their recruiting board.
“Miami was there the whole time recruiting me,” Byrd said. “It made sense because it’s close to home so if anything ever happens, I’m right there.”
Byrd expects National Signing Day 2016 to be drama free.
“I’m very firm in my commitment,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from this process. I don’t take anything for granted and have to work for everything.”
If he ever forgets as much, he need only look back to his humbling experience covering Jackson.
The Next 15
As the News-Press’ Big 15 series concludes, here are the next best 15 junior and senior recruits in Southwest Florida based on scholarship offers and potential.
16. Lukas Masterson, Sr., DB, Gulf Coast
Committed to Wake Forest
17. Jerry Nunez, Sr., K, Naples
Ranked among top 10 kickers in the nation
18. E’Quan Dorris, Jr., RB, South Fort Myers
Holds offers from FAU and South Florida
19. Jailyn Mays, Sr., LB, Dunbar
Committed to Wyoming
20. David Nelson, Sr., OL, Immokalee
Holds offers from South Alabama and Colorado State
21. Jerry Beauchamp, Sr., OL, Barron Collier
Holds offer from Marshall
22. Joe Chmielowski, Sr., DL, Palmetto Ridge
High interest from Division I FBS programs
23. Malik Douglas, Sr., WR, Lehigh
Holds offer from Tulane
24. Peterson Octavien, Sr., DE, Golden Gate
Holds offer from Florida A&M
25. Kieran DiGiorno, Sr., QB, Naples
High interest from Division I FCS programs
26. Luscious Stanley, Sr., LB, North Fort Myers
Holds an offer from Georgia Southern
27. Edwitch Merisier, Sr., DB, Fort Myers
High interest from Central Michigan
28. Wilkinson Glesil, Sr., RB, Estero\
High interest from FCS programs
29. Zach Lackman, Sr., LB, Dunbar
High Interest from FCS programs
30. Rasheed Golden, Sr., WR, Ida Baker
Led District 6A-12 in receiving