Experience Times Five; Pirates Ink Byrd – Presented by Phoenix Communications, Inc.
By: Mick Moninghoff
June 29, 2021
WORCESTER, MA – Dontez Byrd’s goal has always been to play football at a high level. The former walk-on who earned a scholarship at the University of Louisville decided to transfer to Tennessee Tech where he became the school’s first player with over 1,000 receiving yards. Five pro leagues later, Byrd has landed with the Massachusetts Pirates where he can show his skills once again.
“I have been following the Pirates for some time,” Byrd said. “I know a couple of guys who play for the Pirates. I played with Chucky Williams at Louisville and Santos Ramirez with the Seattle Dragons in the XFL,” he added.
A veteran receiver, Byrd has been looking for his next place to shine and now will get that chance with the Pirates.
“Some things came up and I found the Pirates to be a perfect fit where I could display my talent,” he said. “I was looking for an opportunity and Jawad (Pirates Founder, Co-Owner, President and General Manager Jawad Yatim) provided the opportunity for me. Now I want to make the most of it and give the team all I can give,” he said.
The 5’-10” 180 lb. a wideout from Louisville, KY played his high school ball at Ballard High School and when it came time for college, he decided to stay home and play for the Cardinals.
“I walked-on at U of L in 2013 when Charlie Strong was there. After my redshirt year he left and went to Texas. Then Bobby Petrino came and I earned a scholarship and played two years, then transferred to Tennessee Tech to finish out my college career,” Byrd said.
With the Golden Eagles, Byrd had 74 receptions for 933 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. In his senior season he became the first player in school history to pull in over 1,000 receiving yards with 1,003. He averaged 91.2 yards per game while scoring six touchdowns. He was also a kick return specialist and had a 100-yard kickoff return for a score against Mercer as a junior. Byrd was selected to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and that helped to jump start his pro career.
“When I got that opportunity from Tony Softli (Director of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl) I knew that was the right stage for me to go out there and show that I belonged with all those high mid-major players. It was the perfect opportunity to show that I belonged and that I could play with some of the best prospects,” he said.
That led to a long look from the Atlanta Falcons where Byrd lasted through the preseason as an undrafted free agent with advice from an All-Pro.
“That was a special experience especially playing behind arguably one of the best receivers of his time in Julio Jones. It was great to be on the field and learn from him. He was very hands on with the younger guys. On some teams the vets really don’t associate with the young guys because they don’t know how long they are going to be there, but Julio was different. He made us feel comfortable and showed us what to do. He kind of built up my confidence. Deep down inside I knew I was a pretty good receiver but he brought out the best in me. I displayed that in the preseason. I had three or four catches for over 60 yards. I give thanks to Julio for that and building that confidence and working with me,” Byrd said.
From Atlanta Byrd went on to the Memphis Express of the AAF, where in 2019 he had ten receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. In 2020 he played with the Seattle Dragons of the XFL with five catches for 44 yards. When the season was canceled due to the pandemic, Byrd signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League, but ultimately that season was canceled too. Now Byrd is on to his fifth pro league and his first indoor football experience.
“Today (Monday) was my first practice and seeing that wall there, but when I’m on the football field I just play ball. If I happen to run into the wall, I run into it but I just love being out there; playing the game. I actually think it’s a real big adjustment. There’s a running start that you have to be aware of and how deep the field is. The field is not the biggest so some of your routes you have to cut down a little bit. You’ve got to be very precise in indoor football. You can’t get away with some of the stuff that you do in outdoor football,” Byrd said.
When it comes to his new team, Byrd likes what he sees and wants to contribute immediately.
“I’m hoping to provide a spark on the offensive side. I’ve been watching their last few games and the offense is starting to jell really well and I’m hoping just to be an additional piece, just help out and fill in any holes that they might need filled in,” he said.
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA, 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available now at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via Faceboo.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard