Rashad Byrd plays inspired in first game as captain

McClain Baxley

BATON ROUGE, LA — When Rashad Byrd was in middle school, his mother, Carolyn, was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She got better and still lives on cancer-free.

It’s because of this that the redshirt-junior linebacker sports a pink headband under his helmet.

“All the time in practice, whenever I can, just to support her,” he said. “That’s really one of the main reasons why I play.”

Recently, Byrd has unfortunately been given another reason to wear the pink headband and it comes from a conference rival.

Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson’s wife, Wendy, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. The two didn’t boast about it or ask for sympathy, but it was a part of Anderson and the ASU football program.

Monday, Aug. 19, Wendy passed away at 49, ending her two-year fight with the disease. Later that day, the university announced that Anderson would be taking a leave of absence.

“It’s in honor of (my mom) and the Arkansas State coach’s wife just passed away,” an emotional Byrd said. “I grieve for him because my mom had stage three cancer and luckily she made it out. I grieve for him and this is a great way to support.”

The type of compassion and humility Byrd spoke about his support of the fight of breast cancer is part of what earned him a captain role last week. That and his talent on the gridiron, which was on full display in a losing effort to LSU Saturday night.

Against the No. 6 team in the country, Byrd had a career-high 16 tackles, seven of which were solo tackles. This wasn’t the first time the linebacker had stepped up in big environments as he had an interception against No. 2 Clemson last season.

But Byrd doesn’t put any weight on one team over the other.

“We try to prepare for every team the same, whether it’s LSU, Maine, App State or whoever else. It’s just a matter of executing,” he said. “They may have better athletes, five star guys but going out makes us better.”

When Joe Burrow and the Tigers came out with a high-powered offense and worked the Eagles with ease, Byrd withstood the blow and urged others to get back up for the next play.

All night, LSU kept a rather experienced GS defense on its toes — guessing on every snap.

“We want to be able to do that so we can be fresh when we come into the second half,” head coach Chad Lunsford said. “As far as panting and all that, I don’t know if I really saw that. I just saw high-tempo offense and I saw us trying to adjust to that.”

The same resiliency that Carolyn Byrd and Wendy Anderson used, Rashad used Saturday night. Even down by more than 40 points, the defensive captain continued to step up to the plate.

He delivered. 16 times worth.

“We prepare, prepare, prepare and sometimes the outcome might not be what we want, but we still have to go to work tomorrow,” Byrd said. “That’s what got me here.”

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Editor-in-Chief, gaeditor@georgiasouthern.edu