Albany High senior lineman Roscoe Byrd, center, breaks through two of his teammates in practice. Byrd stars on both the offensive and defensive lines and is a two-time Herald Dynamite Dozen selection. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY --- Jontavious Morris likes to kid his best friend and teammate Roscoe Byrd about the way he hits the dinner table.
"He loves to eat. He eats when he's bored,'' Morris said.
Maybe, but when could that possibly be? Is there a high school athlete in Southwest Georgia who stays as busy as Byrd? He's a two-way lineman at Albany High who does just about everything -- and does it well.
"He can dance, too. He's got some moves,'' Morris joked.
Getting to know Roscoe Byrd: The Dynamite 'Half-Dozen' Q and A
New this year, a half-dozen questions for our Dynamite Dozen players about their likes off the football field:
Q: What's your favorite food?
A: "Corn dogs. I usually eat 3.''
Q: Favorite movie?
A: "Glory Road.''
Q: Who is your favorite entertainer (movie star, comedian, singer etc)?
A: "Lil' Wayne.''
Q: Who is your favorite NFL player?
A: "Ray Lewis.''
Q: If you were stranded on an island, who would you want to be with you?
A: "(Actrees/model) Sanaa Lathan.''
Q: Who is the person you owe everything to?
A: "My auntie, Claudia Marshall.''
Byrd is a two-time Herald Dynamite Dozen selection who plays almost every down for the Indians and is a big reason they have turned the program around. He's a co-captain along with Morris, another Dynamite Dozen player who starts on both sides of the line. And he is also the co-captain -- along with Morris -- of Albany High's basketball team, and a big reason the Indians went to the playoffs last year.
That's not all.
Last spring, Byrd won the Class AA state title in the shot put with a toss of 53 feet and 4 1/2 inches.
Try this: Byrd is an honor student with a 3.1 GPA.
"He's as versatile as they come,'' Albany High football coach Felton Williams said. "He's so versatile, and yet he is so humble about it. You would never know it.''
Byrd won't say much about why he works so hard and drives himself and others to be the best, but he will stand up for his teammates, and he's never afraid to push them.
"Last week before our game he told all the coaches to leave the locker room so he could have a team meeting with the players,'' said offensive line coach Chadwick Pope, who wasn't shocked by Byrd's meeting.
"He calls meetings like that every once in a while,'' said Larry Sanford, who plays receiver and is also a point guard in basketball. "We listen to him. Most captains are cocky but he is real humble.''
Sanford and Tim Pierce are the top players for the basketball team, both averaging about 18 points a game, while Byrd is a role player, getting rebounds and taking charges and never scoring much. Still, Byrd is the leader.
"During practice he will be telling us what drills to do,'' Sanford said. "He just has that kind of leadership.''
It's hard to argue with Byrd, who is now only 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds -- but agile and quick.
"He's such a hard worker that when I see him working so hard it makes me want to work harder,'' said tight end Gerald Jenkins, who has known Byrd since they were 10 years old. "He plays with heart on every play. He never takes off a play, never.''
Byrd is unrelenting. He not only goes hard on every play, but his teammates know when he is upset because they see it in his actions on the field, where he revs up even more at times, despite playing almost every down.
"He doesn't want to come off the field,'' Pope said. "He would rather die on the field than come off.''
Pope knows, because he's the coach who carries Byrd's inhaler in his pocket. Byrd has had asthma for most of his life, but it has never stopped him, or even slowed him down.
"He almost never uses the inhaler,'' Pope said. "But every once in a while he gets winded. But he never wants to come out of the game.''
Byrd just figures that's the way you're supposed to play.
"It's just your will,'' he said. "You can't let the asthma be an excuse. You can't have excuses. If you're hurt or you have asthma or if your arm is dropping off. The folks on the other side don't care. They want to hurt you. It doesn't matter if you're playing pee-wee football or playing in the NFL -- if you're playing football you have to be a man.''
Williams said Byrd is the rarest of birds, the kind you just don't see any more.
"It's like he is not truly a part of this generation,'' he said. "He is so uncharacteristic of kids nowadays because of his discipline. It's like he is a kid from the 1970s or something, the kind of player they made years ago.''
Where else can you find a kid who calls team meetings, pushes his teammates every day, and even calls plays?
That's right, he calls plays.
"We were losing to Monroe, 13-7, and Roscoe came up to me on the sideline and said, coach, I think it's time for a play-action pass. It will work,' " said Kenneth Taylor, Albany's offensive coordinator. "We ran the play and it worked. Emmanul Byrd (Roscoe's brother) hit Jeconiah Jackson for a 35-yard touchdown pass, and we beat them, 14-13. Roscoe called the winning play.''
Not bad for the honor student.
It's not unusual for Byrd, who from time to time tells his brother the quarterback to run to his side on a play, and isn't afraid to jump on his teammates.
"He will get onto you,'' said Calvin Jackson, who plays tailback and linebacker. "He will hit you upside the head, or grab you, or he will say something to get you right. He's always pushing you. He's a real good leader. When players see the way he works and see the way he plays the game right, they want to follow him, because we know he would never lead us wrong.
"And it's not just football. It's about character, and being disciplined. He wants us to be great young men off the football field. He doesn't get in trouble, and he doesn't want you to get into trouble.''
Taylor believes Byrd can do anything he puts his mind to.
"We could put him at fullback, and he would run the ball,'' Taylor said. "If we put him at tight end, he would run the routes and he would catch it. I believe he can do anything. He is such a great leader. He exemplifies leadership in every aspect, on the football field, in the classroom, everywhere.
"I've been around football a long time, and they come along like him too often. He's as good as it gets.''
Williams put a number on it.
"He's one in a zillion,'' Williams said. "He's like the kid every coach dreams of coaching. Where are you going to find a kid who plays football, basketball and (wins a state title in track) and not have his grades slip? He does all that and he's still an honor student. That's because he is so dedicated to (athletics) and dedicated to academics.''
Byrd has had offers from UAB and North Carolina A&T, but more should follow after the season.
He would have never believed he would get a football scholarship when he first played the game, and neither would anyone else.
"We were on the same team when we were 9, 10,'' Jenkins said. "He was a big kid who played on the line, but he was nothing special back then.''
His younger brother Emmanul was the star.
"He played quarterback and linebacker and wide receiver, and I was just a lineman,'' Roscoe said. "He was the big star. I didn't really become a good football player until eighth grade. I played on a traveling team and started to learn the game, and then by eighth grade I was dominating people on the line. I just kept working at it and got better.''
The unique drive that has pushed him all these years comes from with inside, and comes from the most important person in Byrd's life -- his aunt, Claudia Marshall. If Byrd comes from a better generation of young men, if he works hard and leads by example, and if soars on the field and in the classroom, he says, it's because he owes so much to his aunt.
Byrd's mother died 10 years ago, and her sister, Claudia, took Roscoe, Emmanul and their sister Stephanie all in to bring up on her own. The result has everyone at Albany High singing praises for the Byrd brothers.
"She gave so much,'' Roscoe said. "She is such a giving person. Taking in three kids ... It wasn't easy. She did everything for us. I play hard for her. I play hard for myself, and I play hard for my teammates. I always knew I would go to college because my mother had a college degree and my auntie had a college degree.''
It was his aunt who gave Roscoe the final push before he won the state shot put title last spring. He didn't even qualify for state in the shot put the year before.
"I kind of made a splash in the shot put last year,'' he said. "I just worked so hard at it every day. I was just grinding and grinding and getting better. Just before I went out there in the state meet I called my auntie and talked to her.''
Then Byrd, who had reached only 45 feet the year before and had thrown a personal best of 49 feet, 7 inches, had the toss of his life, winning the title at 53 feet, 4 1/2 inches.''
It is all about drive and desire with the kid who calls team meetings and is unrelenting in everything he does.
"Like I said, he is the kid coaches dream about coaching,'' Williams said. "You hope the dream never ends, but you know you are going to wake up one day and he will be gone. You hate to think of life without Roscoe.''