Oct. 24, 2007
By Joe Nickell
In a world of goatees and sideburns, 6-foot-7, 308-pound offensive guard Bobby Byrd sports a moustache.
"I get bored looking at the same thing every day so I try and switch it up," Byrd said. "My moustache actually grows in faster than my goatee, but I like it because it's a little different."
Different was also what he was looking for when he decided to attend Washington State University. When he was coming out of Oceanside High School in Oceanside, Calif., he was being recruited by a number of Pacific-10 Conference schools.
"All of the fancy stuff at Oregon really turned me off, and Seattle was too big," Byrd said. "But at Washington State, everyone was really nice and I enjoyed the family atmosphere."
He says Pullman, Wash., was also as far away as he could get from home without leaving the west coast.
Though he likes being a little different, his aspirations for this season are similar to those of every other fifth-year player on the Cougar roster - get this squad back to a bowl game.
Many of this year's seniors redshirted during the 2003 season, the last time the Cougars were in a bowl game. Byrd is hoping to lead a charge to get this team back to the elation that comes when a 15th-ranked Cougar squad upsets a fifth-ranked Texas Longhorns team in the Holiday Bowl.
"The perfect ending to my career would be to win a Pac-10 honor, win the Apple Cup and win a bowl game," Byrd said. "That would be special."
Byrd began his career as a redshirt freshman in 2004, coming off the bench the first two games. By game three against Idaho, he had entrenched himself as a starter, missing only two games since due to a knee sprain. Not only has he remained healthy, but he has been versatile. After starting the last two seasons at left tackle, Byrd moved back to left guard this year, his original position with the team.
This season may be his last in crimson and gray, but he is hopeful that he will have the opportunity to continue his playing career at the professional level. Cougar offensive line coach George Yarno believes Byrd will have that chance.
"I think he definitely has a shot. He has been a four-year starter at a Pac-10 school. His best chance would be as an inside player, and after moving back to guard this year teams will be able to see what he can do there. If he has a really good senior year, he will give himself a shot."
Health and versatility have been two factors that have helped Byrd become a major contributor to the Cougar offense, but coach Yarno says it is his personal efforts that really make him stand out.
"He has a great work ethic. He is very coachable and does all the little things. But over the course of the last summer and into this season, he has become the leader of our offensive line. He keeps the other guys working, which is a great asset to me because it is like having another coach."
Looking back on his career at Washington State, there are a number of things that Byrd is going to miss, most notably the locker room camaraderie, the big games and the goose bumps that come when he steps onto the playing field.
"Going into UCLA and beating them was fun. I remember when they were undefeated at home and we beat them. The Apple Cup wins were nice, too."
Off the field, Byrd will also miss hanging out with the guys after games and in their spare time. One of his best friends is senior quarterback Alex Brink.
"Before games Alex always cooks dinner for the offensive line," Byrd said. "He will cook up some steaks, and he makes some mean twice-baked potatoes."
The cookouts were something Brink picked up from former Washington State quarterback Josh Swogger.
"Josh had a wife and she did all the cooking," Brink said. "I don't have a wife or girlfriend, so I have to do all the cooking myself. It is something we do before every game."
The relationship Byrd and Brink have extends beyond playing football. Byrd says that he has stayed over so many times at the quarterback's house that Brink probably could have started collecting a rent check.
"We weren't super close when we first got here, but playing together with him in that protective role has brought us a lot closer," Brink said. "Bobby loves watching movies, the same ones over and over again. So we watch a lot of movies and play golf. But when Bobby is away from football, he likes to be away from football."
Though he has fond recollections of his time at Washington State, and his contributions will be sorely missed by coaches, players and fans, there is still work to do on this season to get the team to a bowl game in his final season.
"I got a taste of it when I redshirted. This senior class' goal is to get back to a bowl game."
And if Bobby Byrd has anything to say about it, that is exactly what this team is going to do.
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