Rookie S Kevin Byard Gets to Work Early on First Day in NFL


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kevin Byard's alarm was set for 5 a.m.

But he woke up before it went off, and arrived early for his first day on the job with the Tennessee Titans. The former Middle Tennessee State star was admittedly anxious – he'd waited his whole life for this.

"I was actually the first one in,'' Byard said with a smile. "I think we were supposed to be here at 6:30 and I think I got here at 6:05...That's just the kind of guy I am. I just always want to make a good impression and make sure I am never late. So the earlier I get here, the better."

Byard and the other nine members of the team's 10-man draft class reported for their first day of the offseason program on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park. They were joined by a group of undrafted free agents as well.

Later this week, the entire group will take part in a rookie minicamp, which begins on Friday.

A third-round pick who played safety at MTSU, Byard had a big first day, which ended in the afternoon with conditioning work on the practice field. Earlier in the day he met with general manager Jon Robinson, coach Mike Mularkey, and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau after an equipment fitting session. The rookies also had an iPad training class, and other meetings.

It was Byard's first time in the team's facility. He spent time with team officials on the MTSU campus leading up to the draft.

"It is just a great experience, just to be able to walk in and get started,'' Byard said. "It's a great level of excitement, just like when you were a freshman in college. It was definitely a little bit of nerves, a little bit of butterflies, but I think I was more anxious than anything to see how this process is going to unfold.

"There's a lot of excitement in the building. They are pretty much teaching the mission statement, the motto: 'We are trying to build a tough team.' They want dependable players, accountable players. And I think this rookie class has bought into the message. We're excited about what we are going to build here in Tennessee."

Byard said the rookie class is on board, from tackle Jack Conklin, the team's first round pick from Michigan State, to Alabama's Derrick Henry, a second-rounder, to cornerback Kalan Reed, the final pick of the draft from Southern Mississippi. A total of 11 undrafted free agents also began NFL life on Monday.

"We are already building a relationship,'' Byard said of the rookie class. "I definitely think this is the kind of class where you can build a foundation. You start at the base of the house and I definitely think this is a class than can be that. And we are going to try and build success here in Tennessee."

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 time with him on the MTSU campus.

It's why the team picked him 64th overall in the third round.

Byard said he's ready to make a mark with the Titans. Already he's communicated via Twitter with veteran safety Rashad Johnson, who vowed to the youngster. He's looking forward to working with the veterans.

And while Byard said it was a good experience to get his first day in the books, he also knows it was just the start.

"I just want to come in and try not to do too much, and try not to act like I'm one of the guys. I want to come in and earn my respect by being seen more than heard, really,'' Byard said.

"I'm excited. I feel like you have to come in with a level of excitement and enthusiasm every day, but there's also a time to lock in. All the play time is over. You've had the draft, your draft party, different things like that. But now it is time to lock in and 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)

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