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HERALD DYNAMITE DOZEN -- Roscoe Byrd, Albany OL/DL: Ready to take on anything

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ALBANY -- This is about a woman named Claudia Marshall.

Well, Aunt Claudia.

Because whenever anyone talks about Roscoe Byrd, about the pancake blocks or the way he disrupts the other team's offensive line, or the way he leads -- on and off the field -- or about Byrd in the classroom, sooner or later it all comes back to Aunt Claudia.

Byrd is more than a force for Albany High. He's a Renaissance man, a juggler and tight rope walker all in one.

"He's an amazing athlete,'' said Albany High kicker Daniel Castaneda. "And he is someone I look up to, a real leader.''

Byrd is one of those one-of-a-kind kids, the kind who takes on more than he can handle, and handles it better than anyone could have imagined.

He somehow juggles football, basketball and track & field in an era when most high school athletes play one sport, and is so dedicated in the classroom that he carries a 3.6 GPA. He was one of Albany's best rebounders last winter and won the award for taking the most charges (an award he is proud of winning), and then in the spring he qualified for the Class AA state track meet in the discus.

Byrd's not just a hybrid, two-way starter on the football field. He's a walking contradiction who looks so preppy when he is in class some of the players even joke about his "nerd" look that comes complete with glasses and a dress shirt that's buttoned at the top, while at the same time, Byrd is a powerful, 6-foot-3, 265-pound lineman who dominates on both sides of the line.

"He leads the offensive line in pancake blocks and he leads the defense with tackles for losses,'' Albany coach Felton Williams said. "He's a great kid who works extremely hard in the classroom and the weightroom. That's the thing about him, the way he is able to succeed in the classroom and on the football field. He is very focused on both.''

There are times when Byrd is exhausted after practice or a game. Still, he doesn't get overwhelmed.

"I just manage my time,'' Byrd said. "I've been doing it so long, since middle school. Sometimes you have to cut some things out. Sometimes you can't go out, and sometimes you have to tell your friends you can't hang out with them.''

That self discipline and dedication to academics comes from one place: Byrd's Aunt Claudia.

Byrd's mother died when he was 8 and when his younger brother Emmanul, who is the Albany quarterback, was 7. They moved in with aunt Claudia, who gave them a home, love and direction.

"She's always saying, 'somebody is watching what you're doing, so do it right,' " Byrd said. "She taught us to try to be better than what is around you. She told me: "Never follow anyone. Be a man and stand on your own beliefs. Do what is right.' "

Byrd said there are many times when he has leaned on her words.

"There were times even back in middle school when you would be tired and things wouldn't be going right and you would feel like quitting,'' Byrd said. "But she taught me to never be a quitter. She sacrificed a lot. She took me to practice, to AAU basketball, to rec league ball.''

She's the rock beneath Byrd's rock-solid character, and a big reason he takes on so much now and the drive that has made him the leader he is on Albany's footballl team.

"He's every coach's dream,'' said Williams, who named Byrd one of his captains this season despite the fact Byrd is only a junior. The other captain is Byrd's best friend, two-way lineman Jontavious Morris, also a junior.

"I asked (Byrd) him if he had a problem with being a team captain as a junior,'' Williams said. "He took it like he should have been doing it all along. He's a great leader. I can leave him in the locker room with the team and it's like having another coach there. There will be order and nothing will get out of hand.

"He talks to the players, and if there's a quarrel between players, he'll step in and stop it right there on the field. And during games, he's always talking to the players. Last week he told everyone on offense to just keep running the ball behind him.''

It's the same on defense, where Byrd has played defensive tackle, defensive and and linebacker.

"I'll do whatever it takes to help the team,'' said Byrd, who plays every down. "I'll go back there and play safety if they want me to.''

The Indians just want him on the field.

"When we were playing Monroe, they had to run to the opposite side of the field from him,'' Morris said. "They changed their game plan up to stay away from him.''

Byrd is that kind of a force, unrelenting for four quarters.

"At the end of every game the opposing coaches always ask me about two players (Byrd and Morris) and they can't believe it when I tell them they are just juniors and will be back next year,'' Williams said.

Byrd hopes to bring Albany back. The Indians have won just one game this year, but they are playing much better than in the past, and are making the first steps back.

"I will do anything to help my team,'' Byrd said. "I'm (leading and talking to them on the field) to try to do get us on track. I want to win.

"People are always talking so bad about Albany,'' he said. "Saying we are losers. Saying we are thugs, and that we can't do this, can't do that. We can win here. We have good athletes. We have smart athletes. We just need to come together.''

It shows on the field.

"He pumps up the players,'' Castaneda said."When we're feeling down and losing, he's always telling us we can catch up. He's always positive. I look up to him. He's a role model.

"He's always encouraging us to work harder,'' he added. "We wouldn't be the team we are without him.''

Byrd is already getting letters from Division I schools and there's no doubt in Williams' mind that this is the beginning.

"He will be getting a lot more (letters and attention),'' Williams said. "He'll play at the next level.''

For now, it's all about Albany High for Byrd -- and being the passionate young man his aunt taught him to become.

"With him, it's all about his heart,'' Morris said. "It's his want to win, his drive to win. He will not give up.''

That passion and drive comes with discipline and class and a confidence that helps set Byrd apart -- and it all comes from one person.

"My aunt Claudia has always been there for me,'' Byrd said.