Cedric Byrd ran an out route towards the sideline and snapped his head back to see the football come his way. The throw, a bit to the outside of Byrd’s numbers on his chest, landed beyond the outstretched fingertips of the junior college transfer wide receiver.
Despite the inaccuracy of the pass, it was a pass that Byrd knew he should’ve caught as he jogged back to the huddle to wait for his next rep.
He didn’t let out his frustration to his teammates or coaches or blame the dropped ball on the wet conditions. Instead, Byrd kept his helmet on and bit down on his mouthpiece.
Two plays later, he secured the ball land turned up the sideline past the defense into the open field - just like he envisioned it. As the defense shakes its head in disappointment while the offense celebrates, Rainbow Warrior head coach Nick Rolovich understands what Byrd brings to the table not just in terms of on field production, but also in the locker room.
“We run a ton. The receivers run a ton, and he hasn’t missed one rep,” Rolovich said of Byrd. “And I think it goes back to when you don’t have a scholarship out of high school and you have to go to Junior College.”
An early signee for the Warriors this past December, Byrd transferred from Long Beach City College for an opportunity to play Division I football - an opportunity he didn’t have out of high school.
Standing at 5-foot-7, Byrd isn’t the most physically opposing of players on the team. But his stature doesn’t matter when he becomes a blur down field with the ball secured under his arm.
“I’m performing well … if I make a bad play, I just get it out of my head - Just forget about it,” Byrd said. “They just think about next play. If I drop a ball, they say, they try to get the ball back to me as fast they can so I can just forget about it.”
Getting the ball in Byrd’s hands has been the recipe for success so far through spring ball as Byrd has time and time again found open space for his inexperienced quarterbacks to throw him the ball.
Being a junior college transfer hasn’t come without its challenges for Byrd, but Rolovich views the adversity Byrd had to go through has a lesson for the rest of his players.
“There’s probably a stronger appreciation than most guys about what he has here,” Rolovich said. “He’s not complaining about the facilities, he’s very happy about the opportunity. You don’t get a free meal after practice at junior college - it’s a struggle. I think with that mindset, other people are seeing it on the team. They don’t realize how good they have it. And it’s just perspective.”
When discussing the slot receiver position in Hawaii’s offense, it’s difficult to talk about Byrd’s play without mentioning the eventual return of John Ursua, who was on pace to lead the nation in multiple receiving categories.
Now in a Run-and-Shoot offense, Byrd and Ursua could be the dynamic duo that Ursua and Dylan Collie wasn’t - a duo reminiscent of what Hawaii football used to be.
“The interesting part of this is certain relationships get built in practices,” Rolovich said. “If John and Cedric are the two guys, we’re gonna have to really push them to talk to each other and communicate come fall ball. And I think that’s really important.
“You can’t just line up and run together, know what the guy next to you is doing and what is he like, what is he seeing - there has to be a good relationship there,” he added. “There’s a reason why Ryan (Grice-Mullen) and Devon (Bess) are always together; (Greg) Salas and Kealoha (Pilares) are always together … Those slots, they’re like brothers. And that’s what he need to develop this summer.”
For the duo of Ursua and Byrd,only time will tell how the pair will play together this fall once Ursua is healthy. But Byrd is optimistic about how things will play out.
“I feel like we’ll be a great duo,” he said with a smile. “I feel like we’re gonna be nice inside. We’re gonna be some trouble for defenses.”
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