When Dontez Byrd was selected by the Orlando Guardians during the recent XFL Draft, it was the first time he had ever been drafted to a football league. A big achievement for Byrd, as his pro-football career has had many bumps in the road. This time a league came forward and selected him for their squad.
“When I heard I was drafted, I was in the gym,” Dontez said. “I do personal training when I’m not playing football, to pay bills… so I was actually in the gym training the client.”
“My phone started blowing up” he added. “I looked and there was everyone’s congrats and stuff like that. Then I talked to the coach, and he was, ‘Congratulations.’ So, I just knew that it was official.”
Dontez Byrd was the 6th pick of the Orlando Guardians in the “Offensive Skilled” player phase of the XFL Draft, held November 15-17 at the UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. As any player, Byrd was not sure he would be selected in the draft, but he had a notion that something good might happen, as he had attended a summer showcase in Maryland and then went to four different private workouts, the last being with the Orlando Guardians.
“It was a pre-draft visit and workout the week before the draft.” Dontez explained. “I definitely had a feeling that teams were interested in me. I was most comfortable with the Orlando team. I was just glad that they came and got me because I feel like I was really connected with them. I feel like that’s a perfect opportunity for my style of play.”
The Orlando Guardians training camp, to be held in Arlington in January, is the next challenge for Dontez “Speedy” Byrd, a player who is not unfamiliar with challenges. Throughout his football playing career he has consistently been called upon to overcome challenges and prove himself. Byrd has always risen to the challenge.
As a young child Byrd knew he wanted to play football and he wrote a letter to his mother that said he had learned about legacy in school and had decided he wanted his legacy to be, “someone who went against all odds and accomplished everything he was put on earth to do and that was to play professional football.”
When Byrd graduated from Ballard High School in Louisville, he did not have an offer to play at the college level. However, he walked on at Louisville and earned his way onto the team. It worked out, and Byrd was able to make a name for himself on special teams. He played two seasons at Louisville and then transferred to Tennessee Tech where in his senior season he caught 78 passes for 1,003 yards, and six TDs.
In 2018, Byrd was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Falcons. He made it through a rookie minicamp, and earned himself a spot on the roster for the preseason, but was waived at the beginning of the regular season. Still, Dontez remained positive about the experience.
Byrd’s next opportunity came in 2019 with the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). However, his playing time was limited due to an ankle sprain, and then the league folded in mid-season. Byrd turned to the XFL for his next pro-football opportunity but was passed over in the selection draft. Later, the XFL opportunity came back in January 2020 when he received an invitation to join the Seattle Dragons at their preseason training camp in Houston. Byrd appeared in five XFL games before the league closed due to coronavirus.
Seems that bad luck was hampering Byrd’s career. However, his luck did not change any time soon.
“After that happened, I signed with the CFL, and they ended up canceling the season due to COVID,” Byrd explained how he had been picked up by the Hamilton Tiger Cats. “I opted out of the contract for the 2020 season with the CFL, and resigned in 2021. Three days before I was supposed to report to training camp, they released me.”
“There’s been a lot of adversity with pro-football and me,” Byrd added.
Things started to turn around in 2021 when Byrd signed with the Massachusetts Pirates of the IFL, and helped the Pirates to win the championship that year.
Now, Dontez Byrd is back with the XFL. What will he bring to the league?
“I’m going to definitely bring speed, showcase my ability to return the ball, and be a complete rock receiver. But not only just be a special teams guy, I want to showcase both skills, both attributes,” Byrd said.
Sounds like a solid plan. We await this next chapter in the pro-football career of Dontez “Speedy” Byrd.
If you want to hear the entire interview with Dontez Byrd, check out:
Episode 45 “Guardians Times Two” with guests Dontez Byrd and Tommy Auger