He's a two-sport athlete, showing off his athleticism and speed on the gridiron with the Gamecock football team with some clutch plays on offense this past season, even a few times making the starting line-up. As soon as football season was over he switched gears to his second sport to finish out the year, re-joining the football squad briefly for spring practice.
You might have thought at first glance I was describing football and basketball star Bruce Ellington. And that would be a good guess... except I'm actually talking about freshman Damiere Byrd.
Debuting on the football field this past season as a true freshman, Byrd is also an elite sprinter for the Gamecocks' track & field program. Fortunately for Byrd the seasons do not overlap as severely as basketball and football do for Ellington, but for a freshman adjusting to college, it can be a lot to manage.
"Fall is all football because track is in offseason workouts. During the winter [after the bowl game] I was full track; I lifted and practiced with track. Spring football started and I went to pretty much every practice and when we didn't have practice, I would go to track practice. Whenever we didn't have [football] weekend scrimmages, I'd go to track meets," Byrd explained. "The schedule actually worked out well. I only missed two meets, but they weren't major ones."
Time management can be tough on any first year college student, especially a student-athlete, but Byrd handled it admirably. The average day this year started with his classes in the morning, grabbing some lunch, then trying to get work done with about an hour and a half of study hall before heading to practices in the afternoon. After practice he usually headed back to the Dodie for dinner and more study hall to finish his schoolwork.
He competed in the 60-meter dash during the indoor track & field season, even earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors after placing sixth overall in the event at the prestigious Tyson Invitational. At the time, his 6.72 second mark was the No. 3 60-meter dash time for a freshman in the NCAA. He finished 7th overall in the event at the SEC Indoor Championships, one of just two freshmen in the league to make the finals.
For the outdoor season, Byrd has competed mostly on relay teams, helping the squad to a season best 39.92 second time in the 4x100 relay at the Pepsi Florida Relays. He was also on the 4x200 team that won their heat at the Penn Relays to advance to the Championship of America final where they finished third in front of a nationally-televised audience. The quartet ran 1:23.24, the seventh-fastest time in program history.
Being fast always came naturally to Byrd. Although he was a football player first, he started running at a young age too, playing pee wee football and running for a club track team in the summer.
"I actually started running track to get better at running for football and it just so happened that my first year I went to nationals and ended up getting a few medals. I just kept going after that," said Byrd.
Just being fast isn't enough to succeed in football though. You have to be "football fast".
"It's a little different," said Byrd. "You can't have football speed until you feel comfortable out playing on the field. I wouldn't be able to transfer that track speed if I wasn't comfortable with the plays and the playbook."
Byrd has been able to make the shift from high school to college this year as a true freshman, but thinks he'll be even better next year as a sophomore.
"In college I'm trying to learn more techniques and doing more quality practicing then the next day turn around and come out on the football field and still going 100% every day," said Byrd of the effort it takes to manage both sports. "This year I was taking everything day by day. Next year, I'll be able to know exactly what I have to do, how much time I have to put in to get things done so I can make it easier on myself."
Damiere Byrd and the Gamecocks are in Baton Rouge this weekend competing in the SEC Outdoor Championships for Track & Field. Follow along on Twitter with @GamecockTrack. You can catch Byrd again (if you're speedy) on the football field next fall.