NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kevin Byard got used to a longer season, and a bigger workload.
In his rookie season with the Titans, the former MTSU star said he "learned how to be a pro."
Byard wants to make a much bigger impact in Year 2, when he aims to be a Pro Bowler on a playoff team.
"I want to have a Pro Bowl year next year,'' Byard said. "I feel like my confidence can only grow and take off from here. Going into the offseason, I know there are things I need to work on and I am going to work my tail off to get those things corrected and continue to better myself so I can come into Year 2 and try and have a Pro Bowl season.
"Getting into the playoffs is the team goal, but my individual goal is to get to the Pro Bowl for sure."
A safety who also played a key role on special teams, Byard played in all 16 games for the Titans in 2016. He started seven games, and was fifth on the team with 63 tackles. He added a sack, three quarterback pressures and four passes defensed. Byard was second on the team with 10 special teams tackles.
Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said Byard impressed him the first time he met him, when team officials traveled to Murfreesboro before the NFL Draft to interview Byard. The Titans ended up selecting Byard in the third round after LeBeau said Byard "did as well in the Xs and 0s part of that interview as any player as I have ever done it with.
"And as you can imagine,'' LeBeau said, "I have done it with quite a few players."
After spending a season with Byard, LeBeau's even more impressed.
"I think the sky is the limit on him,'' LeBeau said. "I don't want to put a lot of pressure on a young player, but he had a great season for a first year player and he is going to do nothing but grow.
"He has an exceptional football mind and I think that is one of his strengths. He is going to grow and he is going to be a coach on the field, there is no question about that."
Byard led or tied for the team lead in tackles twice during his rookie season. He tallied 10 tackles against the Chargers, and he also racked up nine stops against the Packers on a day when he sacked Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Byard said having an offseason to train and get his body right for 2017 should help him even more as he prepares for his second NFL season.
Titans cornerback Jason McCourty said Byard's eagerness to learn and improve will make him a star in the league.
"Obviously when he came in, his ball-hawking skills, you kind of knew about because of the amount of interceptions he had in college,'' said McCourty, referring to Byard's 19 career interceptions at MTSU. "But I think what has impressed me is his willingness to be around the ball and his desire to want action. Whenever KB is in there, if there is a blitz he wants to blitz, if it's man to man he wants to cover whoever is in there at tight end. He always wants to be around the action and wants to be the guy with the pressure on him to go make the play. He wants to be that guy and that is very impressive for a young guy who is still learning and getting acclimated to the NFL.
"When you have that attitude and mindset, it is going to enable him to be a great player. I am really looking forward to seeing his career grow, and continue to see him mature as a player and become more of a leader as he gets more acclimated with the NFL in general."