NASHVILLE, Tenn. —By his own count, Titans safety Kevin Byard blitzed less than three times during his entire college career at MTSU.
That's one game for Byard on a lot of Sundays.
And he loves every minute of it.
"You have to blitz like you are a bat out of hell,'' Byard said of his approach. "It is a mentality. And I relish those moments when I get the chance."
A third-round draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Byard has been a do-it-all performer for the Titans in his rookie season. He's played in coverage, been used in blitz packages, and he's been a regular contributor on special teams.
In 13 games, Byard has been credited with 58 tackles, one sack and three passes defensed. He was credited with two quarterback pressures against Denver while blitzing, and he also pressured Bears quarterback Matt Barkley on numerous occasions during the team's November 27 game in Chicago, including once during a goal line stand at the end of the contest. Byard estimated he's blitzed over 20 times on the season. He sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the team's win over Green Bay on November 13.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Byard has proven to have a knack for getting a run to the quarterback. He also credited defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
"His scheme—rarely can you get free runners like you get," Mularkey said. "His timing is a lot of it, disguise, letting them make all their protection calls and then showing your hand late. (Kevin) is a good football player—good, instinctive football player, even when it comes to blitzing."
LeBeau said Byard "has impacted a lot of plays at critical times of the game."
Byard said it's been a learning experience, and a fun one.
He hopes to get more chances in the future. The Titans wrap up the season on Sunday against the Houston Texans at Nissan Stadium.
"Now that I am blitzing, I can see how hard it is for the guys to get those sacks,'' Byard said. "Because when those quarterbacks see you, he can move around and throw the ball out late. So it is not easy.
"It is a mentality but it is also a timing thing. You have to act like you are not coming so the offensive linemen won't count you. Coming here, I didn't think I was going to blitz that much. But now that I am here, I love blitzing. You spend a lot of time covering, so you get some chances to blitz, it is always fun. As soon as I hear a blitz is called and my number is called, I just try and get the quarterback."