RALEIGH – Jarvis Byrd figured he was done with football after suffering the third serious knee injury of his college career last season.
Yet here he is, back in preseason camp for N.C. State and aiming to bolster the Wolfpack’s secondary. How much he plays could depend largely on how well his body has recovered from its latest bad break.
“He’s giving you all he has,” fellow safety Hakim Jones said. “He’s not going to be weak. If anything, he’s going to come back stronger than what he was because he has a bigger chip on his shoulder.”
The only good news for Byrd after he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament at Wake Forest was he knew exactly what awaited him.
He tore his right ACL as a true freshman in 2009 and redshirted the following year, then tore his left ACL in summer workouts in 2011 and missed that season, too.
The NCAA granted Byrd a sixth year to complete his playing eligibility, even though the Pahokee, Florida native originally wasn’t sure he would pursue it.
“At first I wasn’t thinking about coming back,” Byrd said. “I was done with football. I was like, ‘Man, I’ve been through this process three times. I know how hard it is to come back off this injury.’ This is one of the most difficult injuries you can get as a football player, so I was done.”
But Byrd said he eventually felt the pull to return while watching college football games as he recovered and consulting with family members.
“I’m a very strong person,” he said. “I have very strong faith in my religion and in myself. ... It made me become a stronger person, inside and out.”
It’s unclear how much Byrd, who turned 24 last week, will play in next weekend’s opener against Georgia Southern at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“The whole goal with Jarvis is to get him to play on Saturdays,” said safeties coach Clayton White, a former Wolfpack linebacker who played three seasons in the NFL. “He has practiced enough. He knows the playbook very well. It’s just getting him to game day.”
Injuries have limited Byrd to just 14 games during his college career.
He has started eight, five coming last year at free safety during coach Dave Doeren’s first year with the Wolfpack.
The team has been cautious with Byrd during his recovery and gradually increased his work in preseason camp.
Still, Byrd said he had a setback early in camp that caused him to miss several days.
White said it will take time for Byrd to regain confidence and conditioning, so he envisions a rotational role until the team has a better idea how Byrd’s knee will respond.
For now, Byrd said, he’ll keep praying before taking the field then try not to worry about the injury.
“I feel like if you think about it, you’re setting yourself up to get injured again, and it’ll make you play slow,” he said. “So when I’m out there, I ain’t thinking about no injury or nothing. I’m just playing fast and playing smart.”