Former NFL star Dennis Byrd – who inspired fans with his determination to walk again after a broken neck – has died in a car crash in Oklahoma, according to Fox 23.
Fans and those who knew Byrd immediately lauded his perseverance and determination.
The television station says that Byrd died when a car allegedly driven by a 17-year-old crashed into the Hummer he was driving. The head-on crash occurred on Saturday, October 15. He was killed on Oklahoma 88 north of Claremore, said Tulsa World.
The newspaper added that the crash sent two others to the hospital: The teenage driver and a 12-year-old passenger in Byrd’s vehicle. Both were in critical condition, said Tulsa World.
Profootballtalk says Byrd was a “former Jets defensive lineman best known for battling back from a serious spinal injury and recovering to walk again.” Tulsa World reported that Byrd was best known for defying “his doctor’s prognosis and walked within weeks after he broke his neck in the New York Jets’ game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 29, 1992.”
Byrd was the author of the 1993 book “Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd.” The book’s promo reads: “The story of a determined and talented athlete, and a deeply-committed family man with a devoted wife and two daughters, and an unswerving faith in God, whose life was changed in one fateful moment on an American football field.”
Byrd, a Tulsa resident, was 51-years-old.
The Associated Press quoted Tulsa’s athletic director, Dr. Derrick Gragg, as saying, “We extend our sincere condolences to Dennis’ wife, Angela, their children and the entire Byrd family. Dennis exemplified true determination, tremendous heart and humility throughout his life.”
Newson6 described a horrific crash: “Police say an SUV traveling north on highway 88 between Lowry road and E 450 road left the highway.” According to the television station, the driver over-corrected on the shoulder, and then crossed the center line, hitting Byrd’s hummer head on.
The AP says that the other driver was in a Ford Explorer, and Byrd was pronounced dead at the scene. The Associated Press said “no Jets player has worn No. 90 since Byrd” and the team retired his number in 2012. He and his wife, Angela, had four children, according to The AP.
Newson6 said that one of the SUVs “caught fire,” burning the grass in the area of the crash, which was littered with wreckage from the vehicles.
Byrd played for the New York Jets and the University of Tulsa. According to Tulsa World, his pro football career ended because of the neck injury.
The Twitter tributes were immediate: