Former Jets defensive end Dennis Byrd will serve as the team's honorary captain for Sunday's AFC Championship Game between the Jets and the Steelers at Heinz Field.
Selected by the Jets in the second round of the 1989 NFL Draft from Tulsa, Byrd played in 57 games, starting 24, with the Green & White from 1989-92. He amassed 27 sacks in his four seasons, with his seven sacks in '89 remaining the fourth-highest rookie total in franchise history and his 13 sacks in '90 ranking ninth for a single season in franchise history.
Against Kansas City on Nov. 29, 1992, Byrd was paralyzed as he attempted to sack Chiefs QB Dave Krieg. As Krieg stepped up, Byrd ducked his head before colliding with teammate Scott Mersereau. The collision resulted in a broken vertebra with an initial diagnosis that Byrd would never be able to walk again. Despite that prognosis, he was able to make a recovery from his injury and will walk onto the field with the Jets' gameday captains on Sunday night.
The inspiration he provided with his recovery led the Jets to honor him as the namesake of their Most Inspirational Player award, presented annually since Byrd first received the recognition in 1992. Additionally, although it has not been formally retired, no Jet has worn Byrd's number 90 and it is understood that no Jet ever will.
Prior to the Jets' AFC Divisional Round game against New England, the Oklahoma City native addressed the team, encouraging them to relish the opportunity they had in front of them and sharing that he would give anything in life to be able to play just one more play. He said, "You gentlemen have the opportunity to come together in this very moment and take hold of your destiny."
In honor of Byrd, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, the club's 2010 Dennis Byrd Award Winner, along with S James Ihedigbo carried Byrd's new number 90 jersey out to midfield for the opening coin toss at Gillette Stadium last Sunday.