Jarvis Byrd thrilled to be back from injury

Jarvis Byrd didn't have to think long about the date of his one-year anniversary for his second knee surgery.
The NC State redshirt junior cornerback is just days away from his anniversary — Aug. 10, 2011. Byrd started the last three games of his true freshman season in 2009, but blew out his ACL in the season-ending victory over UNC. He redshirted in 2010 while rehabbing his knee, but ended up with a second ACL tear prior to fall camp, causing him to miss last year.
The 5-foot-11, 186-pound redshirt junior from Pahokee, Fla., knows how fast things can change in an instant.
"It feels good to be out here," Byrd said. "To be able to run around and get a chance to play with the my teammates another year after tearing my ACL twice, you can't have a better feeling.
"The last two seasons with me being out, it has helped me look at things from a whole different aspect. I know that every day you have to cherish. You just don't know when it's your last time playing football again. Coming back from ACL injuries just humble you."
Byrd tallied 18 tackles and one caused fumble in 204 plays. He shed his planned redshirt in the eighth game of the season, starting three of the last five contests. Being away from the field gave him a different appreciation.
"I really missed my teammates, the enjoyment that I bring to the game and I love the game," Byrd said. "Growing up as a kid, that is all that I ever wanted to do."
Byrd was the lone four-star prospect in the Wolfpack's class of 2009. Seventeen of the 27 members still remain in the program and make up NC State group of redshirt juniors and seniors. Byrd is ready to resume his career and carve out some sort of niche for the Pack.
"I believe that I'm a difference maker," Byrd said. "Just by me being on the field, I personally believe I'll make us more aggressive. I can make more open-field tackles. I just want to win. I'm an every down player and don't want to take any plays off."
Byrd admits the first game of the season against Tennessee on Aug. 31 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta will be an emotional setting.
"It's going to mean the world to me, and I might shed tears at that game," Byrd said. "All the people that supported me through my struggles and situations, and they never let up on me. They have always told me to keep working hard because everything happens for a reason. It would be wonderful to be back out there with my teammates."
Byrd's uncle, Alvin Dean, has been instrumental in keeping his spirits up during the tough times of rehabilitation.
"He is like a mentor to me," Byrd said. "He always has told me to stay focused if you love this game. Nothing comes easy in life because you have to work. When I had my [second] surgery, I was just so down. The reality really hit me because playing is what I had always dreamed about. It was over just like that."
Byrd and fifth-year senior middle linebacker Sterling Lucas, who also missed last year with a knee injury, would go to church every Sunday and Wednesday.
"I just got closer to God," Byrd said.
New strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond also played a crucial role in getting Byrd back on the field for fall camp.
"He worked on my hamstrings and my quad because those are the most important muscles he would focus on," Byrd said. "As I got them stronger, I could feel my ACLs getting stronger. I worked both legs because even my first ACL, I wasn't where I wanted to be at. The prior program mostly worked on flexibility."
Byrd always had the goal of one day getting his degree at NC State, but after two ACL tears, he understands its value.
"That is the first thing to do," said Byrd, who is majoring in program management. "My momma always repeats to me ever since I was a little kid to go to school and get your degree. Your football life is only so short. You still have a whole life to live after that."