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Dennis Byrd (1966 - 2016)

AP Photo / Bill Kostroun

Dennis Byrd (1966 - 2016)

Former New York Jets defensive end Dennis Byrd has died in an auto accident, according to ESPN. He was 50.

Byrd was killed in a head-on vehicle collision Oct. 15, 2016, near his home in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol confirmed to ESPN. Byrd was pronounced dead at the scene because of massive injuries.


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Byrd was drafted in the second round by the Jets in 1989 out of the University of Tulsa. Though he had a short career, he became a legendary inspirational player for the Jets.

During a game against the Kansas City Chiefs in 1992, Byrd collided headfirst with his teammate Scott Mesereau. Byrd suffered major damage to his neck and spinal cord, and doctors weren't sure whether he would walk again.

Byrd went through extensive rehabilitation over the next several months. Byrd was able to return for the Jets' opening game the following season and walked slowly by himself to midfield as an honorary captain. Byrd never fully recovered from his injury and had difficulties walking the rest of his life.

Byrd wrote a book in 1993 called "Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd," which described how his faith and his family allowed him to recover and serve as an inspiration to others who went through similar situations. There was also a TV movie about his life that starred Peter Berg.

"We are all devastated by the untimely loss of Dennis Byrd," New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson said in a statement late Saturday. "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."

Byrd was one of the Jets' best defensive players during his three-plus seasons with the Jets and recorded 27 sacks. Only two players in Jets history had more sacks during their first three seasons. Byrd’s jersey No. 90 was retired by the team in 2012.

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