Behind the Facemask: LaRon Byrd

May 31, 2011


CORAL GABLES, Fla. — With the 2011 season fast approaching and an opening match-up with Maryland on the horizon, it’s time to learn more about the Miami Hurricanes football team. Every day until Fall camp begins, we’ll introduce you to a Hurricane.

LaRon Byrd | Wide Receiver | Senior | Hahnville, La.

The U is one of the most prestigious programs in the country. When you think of the U, the first thing you think of is Miami. That landmark, when it was first created, everybody wanted to throw up the U for their university, but there’s only one. A lot of success has come through here – not only through football – business-wise, lawyers, doctors…. it’s a very successful place.

Competition is everyday. Day-in, day-out. Definitely with the new coaching staff, it’s something that’s big. Basically, it’s like in real life. Everyday, you have to go out and compete in the workforce either to get a job that you want or maintain the job that you already have. I think competition at the University of Miami prepares each one of the student-athletes to be successful in the future.

Playing football has given me the ability to meet new people, to network and to hopefully fulfill a lot of dreams and goals I had growing up. Growing up wasn’t so successful for us financial-wise and football was an escape from that. If I didn’t have the new cleats like all the rich kids had, we had the same uniforms on so it kinda was an escape for me getting out of my community and my surroundings, to being on a team and having a family atmosphere. Because I never grew up with that, football for me is big. It kind of saved my life.

When I was six years old, the first memory I had was Christmas time, and my mom looked like she had just hit the lottery or something. She said, write down something that you want Santa Claus to get you for Christmas and I wrote down a four-wheeler and a go-kart. I guess I kind of put pressure on my mom. (laughs) I’ll never forget waking up on Christmas morning, and my mom said, “LaRon, Santa Claus wanted me to tell you that it was too big to fit in his bag, so he got you something else.” I was crushed. I still hold that against her. (laughs)

I secretly wish that I could be a famous actor. I definitely want to take Denzel’s job.

I’ll never forget my first touchdown at the University of Miami my freshman year against Duke. I’ll never forget my first start in college against Texas A&M. I’ll never forget my first year playing football in high school, in 10th grade. I’ll never forget my first time buying my mom a Christmas present. I bought her a butterfly bracelet. It was advertised on television, and she said, “I wish I had that bracelet.” So I cut grass all throughout the spring and summer to save up money. The bracelet was $99, and I went to Wal-mart and I bought it for her. I was like, “Mom, guess what? Somebody left this on the doorstep!” and she was very happy. That was good for me, to say I earned something for my mom after all the work she’s done and all the sacrifices she’s made in her life. It was good giving back to her.

I’ll never forget the first time I didn’t get a Christmas present – because I had so many brothers and sisters. I’ll never forget when I caught my first strawberry playing in the yard. There was this guy – Dirk Summers – he was like Allen Bailey, always the best football and basketball player. He was a bully. He always used to bully me, every day. He pushed me down one day and I caught a strawberry on my hand and I was mad. So I went up to him and punched him and knocked him out, and everyone in the neighborhood was like “LaRon! LaRon!’ (laughs)

Louisiana is where everyone wants to be! Great food, it’s a great culture, music, everything. If I had Miami weather in Louisiana, I would never wanna leave. It’s very family-oriented, Cajun food, everything you would expect.

Everybody can criticize until they’ve been through it. That goes for parents, peers, teammates, fans, no matter who. Everybody can say, “he should have done this better, if that would have happened,” or “he might have done this if this had happened.” There’s a lot of if/then statements, but no one knows until they go through it.

I’m big into giving back. Every time I see a homeless person at a stop sign, I always give change because I don’t know what happened to that person. A lot of people would assume, “He must be on drugs, that’s why he’s in that predicament” but you never know. Maybe he was born into that situation, maybe he lost a job or got fired, or something happened in his family life that stressed him out and put him in that situation. Everybody can criticize before they know, but I want to know the full story before I can make my own opinion.

The best catch was my first touchdown against Duke. I’ll never forget it. It was a fade route, and I told Coach Nix, “Please, just give me a touchdown.” He was the offensive coordinator at the time, and he said, “I’ll throw it to you this time, you better come up with it.” I was on the 12-yard line and ran a fade route, and the cornerback jumped up and I tipped the ball, I thought it was gonna go out of bounds. Just so happened I caught it, put my feet inbounds in the back of the endzone, it was a nice catch. I think it was the best catch I ever had.

I didn’t think I would be in this position I am today. I would never take back my situation growing up, because it shaped me to be the man that I am. I never thought in a million years I would be where I am today, as far as about to be a future college graduate, hopefully a professional football player, and not even that, just being successful in life. I never would have imagined this because of the way I grew up. A lot of kids I grew up with are in jail right now or dropped out of high school, and you would assume that everyone from the neighborhood I grew up in would have been unsuccessful. I never would have thought in a million years I’d be where I’m at today.

We are all learners of life. We’re all learners of life, learners of the game, we all learn from each other.

I was raised in a single-parent household. My mother was 17 when she had me. I grew up in the Homeville projects, in a one-bedroom apartment. My mom had little knick-knack jobs for us to help provide – she never backed down from the challenge, never once wanted to give me a wailing or anything like that. She stuck through it.

I don’t let a lot of things get to me, I am a firm believer in hard work, and that if you stick to something and believe in God, anything is possible. That’s how I was raised.

Legacy is the University of Miami. When I think of legacy, the person I would best want to follow behind is Ed Reed. As far as the legacy he left, it’s wonderful. I’ve never had the chance to sit down and talk with him one-on-one, but I’ve seen a documentary on him, and he grew up the same way I did. It’s kind of crazy when you see something like that. It impacts you. He grew up and had to leave his house as a junior and live with someone else in order to finish high school, came to the University of Miami, excelled at the University of Miami, also got his degree, went to the NFL and is now a future Hall of Famer. When I think of legacy, I think of Ed Reed. Great people person, you never hear anything bad about him. No off-field issues, great on-field player.

I would definitely want to follow someone like that.

Make sure to check in for a new Behind the Facemask profile each and everyday in preparation for the Hurricane football season opener. For a review of all past profiles, check out Behind the Facemask Central.