Bills S Byrd following in father's footsteps

Associated Press Modified: November 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm •  Published: November 20, 2012
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Growing up, Jairus Byrd remembers the days when the new shipment of San Diego Chargers helmets would arrive.

Quick as he could, Byrd would pull one over his tiny head and wobble his top-heavy frame out the door to scamper around pretending to be his father.

"I would just run around with the helmet on for no reason, just throwing up the ball," the Buffalo Bills safety said. "I just had a love for the game, because sons want to be like their dads."

If many kids aspire to one day play quarterback, the dream was far different for Jairus. He wanted to grow up being a defensive back like his father, Gill Byrd, who established himself as one of the Chargers' premier cornerbacks over a 10-year, two-time Pro Bowl career that ended in 1992.

"When I put that helmet on, I wanted to be just like him," Byrd said. "A DB."

The family legacy for producing top-tier NFL defensive backs has entered its second generation with Byrd's continuing emergence.

He first burst onto the scene in 2009, when the second-round draft pick out of Oregon set a Bills rookie record with nine interceptions. He's since rounded himself into a more complete player.

This season, Byrd leads Buffalo with four interceptions and three forced fumbles, and is tied for second with 57 tackles. He's particularly developed a knack for making game-changing plays on a 4-6 team that still believes it can make a second-half playoff push. One that resumes at Indianapolis (6-4) Sunday.

In Buffalo's 19-16 win at Arizona last month, Byrd set up the decisive field goal by intercepting John Skelton's pass over the middle on the Cardinals' opening drive of overtime.

On Thursday, Byrd helped seal a 19-14 win over Miami. With under 2 minutes left, he burst to his right as quarterback Ryan Tannehill released a deep pass intended for Davone Bess, who had a step on cornerback Justin Rogers.

Covering some 30 yards, Byrd beat everyone to the ball by leaping head-first. He intercepted the pass and managed to land inbounds before sliding into the Dolphins bench.

"Any receiver that's ever played the game would've been proud of that catch," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "That whole play was really amazing. ... And the timing of it."

It was a play NFL Network announcers described as "an Ed Reed type of play," in reference to the Ravens star safety.

Former NFL defensive back Aeneas Williams had a different comparison. It reminded him of Gill Byrd.

"When I see him do what he does, it's once again a reminder of some of the things his dad did when he played, and some of the things his dad taught me," Williams said. "And Jairus being the next generation, let's just say he has even more abilities maybe than his dad and I combined. How about that?"

Williams, who split his career between Arizona and St. Louis, is very familiar with the Byrd family. As a player, he spent offseasons being tutored by the elder Byrd. That's how he first met Jairus, who has come to call him "Uncle Aeneas."



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