New Philadelphia Eagles safety Kevin Byard grew up idolizing Brian Dawkins | #schoolsaftey

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Like most kids who fell in love with football growing up in Philadelphia, Kevin Byard wanted to play like Brian Dawkins. 

When Byard started playing safety in high school, he used to watch Dawkins’ highlights on YouTube constantly.  

“Every single game, I looked at that,” Byard said. 

Byard, a West Philadelphia native, admired the fire and passion Weapon X played with every snap. 

Now, years later, Byard plays for his hometown team one of his favorite players called home for 13 years. The Philadelphia Eagles sent two-day three picks and Terrell Edmunds to the Tennessee Titans to acquire Byard, a two-time All-Pro Safety, on Monday. 

In fact, Byard now uses the same locker Dawkins had during his Hall of Fame career with the Birds. 

“Huge influence,” said Byard, who has 27 interceptions in 120 career games. “I’ve said this multiple times, Brian Dawkins is one of the top safeties I looked up to, him, Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu.”

Byard, who has 47 total tackles and one fumble recovery through six games this season with the Titans, spent his early years in West Philly. 

The 30-year-old grew up in the area of 52nd Street and Lancaster Avenue. He moved when he was 14 and played football at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Lithonia, Georgia. 

If not for moving, Byard said he probably would’ve attended Overbrook High School. 

Byard said he remembers growing up with a huge family throughout his childhood in Philadelphia and cookouts were common. He said his mother had seven kids and his grandmother on his dad’s side had roughly 70 grandchildren. 

And just like everyone else in the Philly area, he remembers the Eagles’ brutal loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005. 

“Being at my aunt’s house and everyone storming the streets pissed off and super upset, so vivid memories of the Eagles and obviously the B-Dawk days, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and all of those guys,” Byard said. “My whole family is Eagles fans.”

Byard said his aunts and uncles live in Philly, but his siblings are in Atlanta.

As far as what type of role Byard will play in the Eagles’ defense, he said the coaches didn’t get into all that yet. He’s still getting caught up to speed and adjusting after landing on a new squad. 

But Byard, who hasn’t missed a game his entire career, has lined up all over the field and will be a valuable asset in Sean Desai’s defense. He’s lined up at the slot, free safety and box safety throughout his career. 

Plus, Byard will be starting alongside Reed Blankenship, a player whom he already built a relationship with. 

Byard and Blankenship are both Middle Tennessee State University alumni and trained together during the offseason in Nashville. The two didn’t cross paths in college, but Byard had high praise for Blankenship as a player. 

“I think he’s a really great young player,” Byard said. “Obviously last year he just kind of came in with some injuries and made a big play against Green Bay. I think he caught his first interception off Aaron Rodgers? I don’t think I’ve picked off Aaron Rodgers yet, so that’s pretty cool. But I think he’s a really instinctual player, physical player, really smart, so I’m going to lean on him too to learn the playbook and everything to get my feet wet.” 

Byard said he found out about the trade after Titans coach Mike Vrabel called him.   

Shortly after that and talking to his wife, he called his former teammate with the Titans, A.J. Brown, the Eagles star receiver who was in a similar position in 2022 after he got dealt to Philadelphia.

“He’s been a dog ever since he came into this league and I was even excited when he got traded to the Eagles, so we’ve always kept up with each other,” Byard said. 

Last season, Byard’s Titans got killed by Brown, who finished with eight catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns at Lincoln Financial Field in a 35-10 loss. 

Before that, Byard came back to the city multiple times to bury his mother and two grandmothers. He said it feels good to come back to Philly on a good note.

“I’m excited to be back in my hometown where I was born and raised at, so it’s an exciting time for me right now,” Byard said. 

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