NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kevin Byard already had the Titans hat.
And he could hardly wait to put in on. In the third round of Friday's NFL Draft, the Middle Tennessee State star got his chance as his NFL dream was realized in a big way.
"I kind of had it planned already,'' Byard said with a smile while speaking to reports on a conference call. "As soon as I hung up, I said, 'Give me my Titans hat. Titan up.'
"It's the greatest feeling in the world,'' Byard, who played 30 minutes down the road at MTSU, continued. "As soon as I heard the general manager's voice, it was just a whirlwind of madness from me. It is a dream come true. Just a few years ago I never thought I would be in this position. I just have to think the man upstairs."
Byard earned his draft position, Titans general manager Jon Robinson said.
Byard (5-11, 216) was an interception machine at MTSU, racking up 19 interceptions in four seasons. He displayed smarts on the field and off, something the Titans found out when they spent two hours with him on the MTSU campus recently.
It's why the team picked him 64th overall in the third round.
"Outstanding ball skills," Robinson said of Byard. "I think 19 interceptions speaks for itself, and he had 370-plus tackles as well. So he's a really productive football player, and he's a great guy. He is a captain, he is a (team-first guy). He embodies all the traits we are looking for. We think he can play free and strong, and he can play in the kicking game. He is really good with the ball in his hands when he picks it off."
Over the phone, Robison could sense Byard's excitement.
"He is walking over now,'' Robinson said with a smile.
Byard racked up 66 tackles and four interceptions in 2015. With the Titans, he'll have a chance to compete for playing time, and potentially a starting spot, as a rookie.
Coach Mike Mularkey said the addition of Byard adds competition at the position, which he welcomes.
"This is what we want,'" Mularkey said. "Those guys that want to buy in and compete and do the things we are doing, those guys will be the players we're going to do our best to keep around here."
Byard watched the draft with his family. He was hoping the Titans would pick him. He said he watched Titans games every Sunday from the locker room while at MTSU. When he was selected, he said he got 100 text messages and "probably 30 missed calls."
"When they picked me, it was almost surreal,'' Byard said. "I am going to go in there and work as hard as anybody coming in. I am going to go in there and make an immediate impact on special teams, and I am going to go in there and try and fight for a starting job, that is my plan.
"I am glad the Titans picked me, and they made the best decision of the draft by picking me. I am excited and ready to go to work."
The Titans select Middle Tennessee State S Kevin Byard in the third round (64th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. (AP Photos)