WHERE ARE THEY NOW? VOL 3 Keith Byars
We are doing a series of interviews on former players from the 937 area on what they are doing now. These former players still rep the 937 wherever they go.
Keith Byars was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. He was the 4th of 5 children. He describes himself as a family person having grown up in such a large family. His father was a preacher, so he grew up in the church. “Sundays were spent in church all day” he explained. “We would rush home from morning service and come home and watch football. We would watch the 1pm and 4pm game and then… go back to church”. The Byars’ family were all Pittsburg Steeler fans, not Keith, he was the lone Cleveland Browns fan in the house. When asked if he was still a Browns fan, he replied “I was a Browns fan up until draft day. When the Eagles drafted me, my Browns allegiance went away.”
Byars grew up playing baseball and basketball, but he did not begin playing football until junior high school. His parents would not allow him to play pee wee football so “in the 7th grade when I finally played organized football…I didn’t need a permission slip to get signed. I came home from school and said hey I’m on the football team.” His parents weren’t too happy about it; nevertheless, he went on to play tight end for his middle school team.
Byars started his high school career at Trotwood Madison High School before transferring to Roth High School for his sophomore year. As a sophomore, he played tight end for Roth before moving to running back his junior year. Coach Tom Montgomery moved Keith to running back since he didn’t need that much speed on the line; but it was obvious that Coach Montgomery knew what he was doing because Byars averaged 11 ½ yards a carry his senior year. Roth went undefeated in the regular season during Keith’s junior and senior football seasons.
After graduation in 1982, Byars was highly recruited coming out of high school for football and baseball. He was a Parade Magazine All American for football. Keith grew up an Ohio State fan, “All my life I wanted to wear the scarlet and gray.” He said he grew up hating Michigan, yet his first ever college visit was to the University of Michigan. “When Bo Schembechler calls your house, out of respect you answer the phone.” Coach Schembechler then came to his house for a visit and “…two hours later there’s a visit scheduled for me to go to Michigan.” Two weeks after his visit to Michigan he received a phone call from Coach Woody Hayes. In Byars’ words, “Woody proceeded to yell at me and curse at me…I was ecstatic.” Keith recalled Coach Hayes saying, “Do you want to be great? What the hell are you doing going to Michigan on a visit? Don’t you know they’re the bad guys?” At that point, Byars narrowed his college choices down to three schools, Ohio State, Pittsburg, and Arizona State. He eventually chose The Ohio State University to continue his education and football career.
When asked what it was like running out of the tunnel at Ohio State for the first time? He replied “I don’t remember my feet hitting the ground… Busting out and seeing 90,000 people…WOW…that’s a feeling that never goes away. I still get goosebumps.” Byars lettered his freshman year but did not win the starting running back job until his sophomore year. In 1984, his junior year, Keith finished 2nd behind Doug Flutie for the Heisman Trophy. Byars’ most defining moment was his 67-yard touchdown run with one shoe on vs The University of Illinois. Keith took the hand off from Mike Tomzak on a draw play and ran 67 yards for a touchdown. During the run his left shoe came off and he didn’t even break stride.
Despite missing most of his senior season with a foot injury, Byars had a great career at Ohio State. He finished his college career with 4,369 total yards, 3,200 rushing and 50 Touchdowns (46 Rushing). Byars was a Consensus All-American (1984), Big Ten Most Valuable Player (1984), First Team All-Big Ten (1983,84), and the NCAA Rushing and Scoring Leading (1984).
Keith knew from a young age that he was going to be a professional athlete. His belief was that “I’m going to be a professional athlete. If I don’t make it, it’s because I wasn’t good enough. Not because I didn’t put myself in a position to get there.” Keith was given that opportunity when he was drafted in the 1986 NFL Draft to the Philadelphia Eagles with 10th pick in the 1st round. That year, Byars played alongside of Randall Cunningham and Reggie White. He went on to play 13 years in the NFL making the Pro Bowl in 1993. During his NFL career, Byars played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and the New York Jets. In 2007, Keith was selected for the Philadelphia Eagles 75th anniversary team. Byars finished his NFL career with 3,109 Rushing yards, 5,661 Receiving yards, and 54 touchdowns (23 rushing and 31 receiving). He played in Super Bowl XXXI with the New England Patriots and the AFC Championship game with the New York Jets.
Keith is currently semi-retired and works as a radio personality on 1410 Wing AM where he has the Keith Byars show. Byars is no doubt a Dayton legend. If you’re talking about football in Dayton Ohio, his name will surely come up.
Keith Byars’ message to the youth, “How do you want to be remembered? You want to be remembered as a good guy or a bad guy? We are going to remember you one way or the other. It’s your choice what are you going to leave us with…Give them something positive, that’s how you make the best decisions. What your parents think and how do you want to be viewed? So, if you do the right thing, your going to be fine. Always give your best…Regardless of what the scoreboard says at the end of the game. If you are giving everything you got, you’ll have no regrets.”
Photo credit TOPS TRADING CARDS and www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com