May 4, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Damiere Byrd can’t wait for next season to get here. The former South Carolina wide receiver (2011-14) is preparing for his second year with the Carolina Panthers, and he wants to make an impact in 2016.
“My rookie year was fun,” said Byrd. “I felt like I did what I needed to do to stay around, and the number one goal is just to try to stay around in the league and keep working. This year I want to continue to get better, find my way on to the 53-man regular season roster and try to make plays for the team.”
While the New Jersey native is only five feet nine inches tall and 170 pounds, Byrd used his tremendous speed to stretch defenses and was signed by the Carolina Panthers as a free agent last year. Although he spent his rookie season on the practice squad, being part of a Super Bowl team in his first year as a professional certainly wasn’t a bad ride.
“Going to the Super Bowl was great,” Byrd said. “We were out in California for a week, and I really enjoyed it.”
The fastest player on the Gamecock roster during his playing days. Byrd had nine catches of 40 or more yards, finishing his career with 68 receptions for 1,265 yards and 10 touchdowns in 47 games. After earning a free agent spot last year, Byrd relied on mentoring from veteran wide receivers to help him through his first professional season.
“Ted Ginn, Jr., and Jericho Cotchery really helped me a lot,” Byrd said. “Whether it was learning the playbook or just learning the routine in how they did things around there, they really helped me.”
Even with that mentoring, like any rookie, Byrd still had his “welcome to the NFL” moments.
“When you come in as a rookie, you’re just hoping to get reps,” Byrd said. “We have a period in practice that we call our opportunity period. It’s the last period where all the young guys get to go in and get reps. So that was really humbling for me, knowing that I might go through a whole practice and only get a couple of reps. So you have to make every one count.”
I’m excited about the new direction with the new coaches.
Byrd was back on campus recently for South Carolina’s NFL Pro Day, and standing on the field at Williams-Brice Stadium brought back many fond memories.
“Every Saturday coming out to ‘2001’ and having ‘Sandstorm’ going before kickoffs are some of my favorite memories,” Byrd said. “College is one of the best times of your life, especially getting to play SEC football and being at South Carolina.”
Byrd started his college career on the track team, and immersing himself into everything the university and the athletics department had to offer helped him in his professional career.
“Being down here really helped me a lot,” Byrd said. “There are so many alumni all over the place, and the people here taught me a lot. Coming from the north where it’s a little different, being here taught me a lot of little things about good manners and how to treat people. I feel like I really grew as a person while I was at South Carolina.”
Byrd enjoys keeping up with former Gamecock teammates, and he is excited about the future of the South Carolina football program.
“I’m excited about the new direction with the new coaches,” Byrd said. “I’ve talked a lot with some of my teammates who are still here, and they’re happy and excited about what’s going on. So if they’re excited, then I should be excited for them too.”
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