Former NFL Player Dennis Byrd Dies in Car Accident

Byrd's neck was first broken on the field in 1992

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Mattylynn Dusharm, Staff Reporter

On saturday morning Dennis Byrd was driving his SUV on highway 88, about 30 miles away from Tulsa, around 11:15 AM. A seventeen year old that was driving a sport utility vehicle left his lane and crossed to the opposite side of the road, causing a head-on collision. Therefore Byrd was pronounced dead at the scene, the teenage driver suffered some injuries, and twelve-year-old passenger was also injured in the accident.

Byrd was fifty when he died. His NFL career lasted only four years, it quickly ended when he was paralyzed on the field in 1992. Even though he was six foot five inches and two-hundred seventy pounds he quickly learned how to walk again, within a year.

New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson stated, “We are all devastated by the untimely loss of Dennis Byrd, soft-spoken and strong-willed, the inspiration he provided to all not only by his play on the field but from the way he overcame life’s obstacles was remarkable by any measure.”

Oklahoma, where Byrd died, was his home state, where he grew up and first got involved in football. But he was known to NYC-area residents and nationally due to his time in the NFL.  The Jets retired his jersey number.

The collision that ended Byrd’s NFL days took place in 1992, but also made him such a strong and iconic man. When he was playing a game against the Chiefs November 29th, 1992, he was involved in a tackle fractured part of his lower spine. Byrd left the field on a stretcher and by the next day was facing a diagnosis of possible paralysis, which forced him to resign from the Jets.

According to a New York Times article about the game, “An eerie silence gripped the stadium as Jets doctors and trainers attended to Byrd for seven minutes, hopes were raised when Byrd moved his left arm. A few of his teammates drifted over to talk to him and hold his hand, then slowly they began to realize just how seriously injured he was.”

Three hours after his injury he went under a 7 hour operation, the doctors thought it would take him two years to be able to function his lower body. By the end of January 1993 he made a lot of progress in physical therapy, he was already walking around with crutches. He even ended up making it to an emotional news conference to mark the end of his rehabilitation program at the hospital.