|Miami's freshmen finally get their practice chance|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 02 August 2008 09:44|
The freshman wide receiver decided as an eighth-grader that he wanted to play his college football at Miami, just so he'd have the chance to be the next Andre Johnson, his favorite player at the time. And growing up in Louisiana, Byrd followed the college exploits of Reggie Wayne and Ed Reed, both of whom were high school standouts in his home state before coming to Miami and ultimately starring in the NFL.
So when he arrived in Coral Gables and saw his new jersey swaying in his locker, Byrd was taken aback.
He got No. 47.
Michael Irvin's number. Hall of Famer, Super Bowl champion and Miami legend Michael Irvin's number.
Welcome to The U, kid. No pressure to perform with that jersey, right?
``Michael Irvin is a great receiver,'' Byrd said. ``That's, like, giant shoes to fill. But I'll honor this number. It's an honor to wear that jersey. And hopefully, someday, I can equal what Michael Irvin did. That's what it's about here.''
Byrd is one of many freshmen who'll get the chance to play right away at Miami this season. When the Hurricanes opened training camp in the standard steamy summer-in-South-Florida conditions Saturday morning, he showed the 2,000 season-ticket holders in attendance some of the reasons he might get quickly inserted into the lineup.
He had some dazzling catches, blocked downfield like a veteran, and flashed the speed that made him one of the most coveted players in Louisiana last season. Afterward, even Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon - who doesn't often dole out praise based solely on one practice - couldn't deny that he was impressed.
``That's one guy we're talking about. Laron Byrd did some good things today,'' Shannon said. ``We're excited about the way he's progressed and did things. He made some great catches today.''
Coming off a 5-7 season, the Hurricanes clearly need improvement in plenty of areas. So Shannon hasn't been shy about saying that Miami could wind up using many young players, partially in an effort to build depth at every position, partially because some of the newcomers are simply ready to contribute right away.
Linebacker Jordan Futch broke up three passes in drills, and said he couldn't sleep past 4:30 a.m. because he was so excited for his first real collegiate practice. At least he got some rest. Defensive back Brandon Harris, one of the numerous newcomers from Miami-Dade County who grew up hoping for a chance to be a Hurricane, said he didn't sleep at all Friday night for fear he'd miss the 7:50 a.m. start of practice.
``Everybody's looking forward to a great season,'' Futch said. ``This is just the first part of it. We've got a long way to go.''