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MTSU to Retire Titans Safety Kevin Byard's Jersey


NASHVILLE – Titans safety Kevin Byard had a good day in Thursday's practice – he knocked away three balls in an early 1-on-1 period before later intercepting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Things got even better after practice.

After Byard wrapped up a press conference, MTSU officials surprised him by walking out of Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park and announcing the team's plans to retire his No. 20 jersey at the school.

"Honestly, this jersey is fire," Byard said with a smile. "What an honor. Just going back to those days at MTSU. … I played with a lot of great players at MTSU, a lot of great coaches. I couldn't have done it on my own. A lot of people I want to thank – all the coaches, players, staff, trainers, people in our student enhancement center that helped me. I am just honored, and I am so grateful. I'm really at a loss for words.

"I know my mother would be very proud of me in this moment right now."

Byard's jersey will be retired on Sept. 30 during a ceremony at the Blue Raiders' home game versus UTSA, President Sidney A. McPhee and Director of Athletics Chris Massaro announced on Thursday. MTSU coach Rick Stockstill gave Byard a big hug at the ceremony.

Byard will join Teddy Morris as the only other player in MTSU football history to have his number retired. Morris' No. 14 was retired in 1965.

"I want you to know that we are all very, very proud of you," McPhee told Byard. "You represent us well, and you represent this state well. Congratulations."

A four-year starter for the Blue Raiders from 2012-15, Byard ended his career as the program's all-time leader in interceptions (19), interception return yards (377), interception return touchdowns (4) and is one of just nine players in school history with 300 or more tackles. A team captain, Byard forced or gained 25 turnovers (19 INT, 5 FF, 1 FR) in 49 career games played.

Byard was selected in the third round in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Titans. He's coming off his second Pro Bowl season with the team. Byard was named the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year winner in 2020 for his work in the community.

"I remember I told Jon Robinson when they were evaluating Kevin before the draft," said Stockstill, referring to the Titans General Manager. "I told him: Kevin came in as a professional, and he did everything right off the field, and he had an incredible work ethic. He was extremely focused on his goals, what he wanted to accomplish not only as a student, not only as a football player, but as a man. He came in as a professional and he worked hard. … I always appreciated how hard he worked."

MTSU officials surprised Titans Safety Kevin Byard Thursday after his scheduled media availability, walking out of Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park and announcing the team's plans to retire his No. 20 jersey at the school.

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