Weixlmann's Tidbits: Oregon Defensive Back Jairus Byrd Coming into His Own

Ben WeixlmannSenior Writer ISeptember 14, 2008

As the Missouri 4A Player of the Year, senior quarterback/safety Jairus Byrd led Clayton High School to the state championship.

He was thought of as an idol at the school, but no one really knew what the future held for Byrd. Scouts said he was too small and too slow. Apparently his 5'11" frame and 4.65 speed weren't appealing to the elite FBS programs.

The most heralded schools that offered Byrd a spot were Oregon, UCLA, and Louisville, and the facilities caught Byrd's eye in Eugene, Oregon.

The one thing that scouts didn't take into account were Byrd's football instincts. His father, Gil, played in the NFL and holds the career interceptions record with the San Diego Chargers. "JB," as he is known, had the football ability in his genes, but he still had to work extremely hard to get where he is today.

After being redshirted his freshman year at Oregon, Byrd came in relatively unknown to join All-American Patrick Chung and All-Pac-10 performer Walter Thurmond III in the Ducks' secondary.

What did he do his freshman year in 2006? Well, he corralled five interceptions and was voted to the Freshman All-America First Team. Last year, he picked off seven passes to bring his career total to 12, which is second all-time among active players.

With the Ducks down, 20-6, in a hostile environment this weekend at Purdue, Byrd returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown to turn the momentum toward the side of the Ducks, who ultimately won in double overtime.

His off-field activities are impressive, too. Aside from being actively involved in Christian organizations at Oregon, Byrd is one of the most dedicated Ducks in the weight room. So much so that Byrd has now equaled the all-time power clean mark by a defensive back with a 330-pound lift.

While Chung is getting the most credit for the Oregon defense, Byrd is giving him pressure as the best of the bunch.

Byrd didn't produce just one highlight on Saturday at Purdue, either. He also tallied a seven-yard interception return and broke up a pass in the red zone on a crucial third down, forcing a field goal attempt.

JB leads the Ducks' stout defense with four broken up passes and a forced fumble, while compiling 12.5 tackles for fourth-most on the team.

The unheralded, undersized defensive back has showed his talents for the Ducks, and head coach Mike Bellotti likely couldn't be happier for Byrd's arrival in 2005.