NASHVILLE – It's been a heck of a year for Titans safety Kevin Byard.
At the start of training camp, he earned a whopping new contract with the franchise.
On Thursday morning – early Thursday morning – Byard became a father. His wife gave birth to daughter Eliana Rose Byard, who arrived nearly a month early, weighing four pounds, 10 ounces.
Byard's wife, Clarke, was due September 16. But Byard got word a birth was imminent from Titans general manager Jon Robinson at the start of the team's practice on Wednesday, and he bolted off the field to take his wife to the hospital. Byard's wife called everyone she could think of at the facility to get word to her husband.
The baby girl was born at 1:07 a.m. on Thursday morning. Byard went through the entire process with his wife, got roughly 2-2 ½ hours sleep after going to bed around 4 a.m., and he was back on the practice field on Thursday with his teammates after early morning meetings.
"She's a little one, but she's great, she's healthy, and that's what I am most happy about," Byard said of his daughter. "And my wife, she's doing well, too. … This has changed my life, and it's going to change my life for the better for sure. I (held) her, and she was super relaxed. She knew daddy was holding her for sure."
Byard still had his hospital band on his wrist on Thursday during practice, and he was heading back to the hospital to see his girls.
"I jumped up (this morning) and I told Jon I was coming to practice," Byard said. "Of course I wanted to be there with my wife, but I understand this team is counting on me so I wanted to come back and be at practice. I could have told (them), 'I'm tired, I'm not going to be able to practice'. But that's not the kind of person I am. I wanted to be here for my brothers."
A third-round pick of the Titans out of Middle Tennessee State, Byard signed a new long-term deal with the team in July. Byard, who has 12 interceptions in the past two seasons, is considered one of the NFL's best safeties, and he'll now be paid like one with his new deal.
Byard had 96 tackles, four interceptions and two sacks in 2018. In three seasons, Byard has 246 tackles with 12 interceptions and 10 quarterback pressures.
Byard knows it's been a heck of a year.
"I have been reflecting during the past two weeks actually (about how blessed I am)," Byard said. "I'll reflect a little bit more when I see (my daughter) again. It's just been an incredible journey, the past few weeks, months. I have just been taking in every single day, being grateful.
"And that's another reason why I came out here to practice. At the end of the day, I love this game. I love being out here with my brothers. I love my wife, and I am about to rush back to the hospital. I am just grateful that I can do this and play a game where I can take care of my family as well. So I want to keep that balance always."
The Tennessee Titans practice on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donald Page)