Middle Tennessee legend and NFL All-Pro Kevin Byard will have his No. 20 jersey number retired on Sept. 30 during a ceremony at the Blue Raiders’ home game versus UTSA, President Sidney A. McPhee and Director of Athletics Chris Massaro announced on Thursday following the Tennessee Titans practice.
“I am truly honored and blessed to have my jersey number retired at MTSU,” said Byard. “A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into making this a reality. Thank you to my coaches, training staff, faculty members, and most importantly my teammates who all played a major role in my success during the five years I attended Middle.”
Byard will join Teddy Morris as the only other player in MTSU football history to have his number retired. Morris’ No. 14 was retired in 1965.
“Kevin Byard has made a tremendous impact, both on and off the field, during his playing career at MTSU and as a Tennessee Titan,” said McPhee. “It is in recognition of his sustained excellence, as a player and true role model, that we are elated to announce today his MTSU Number 20 will be just the sixth in the 111-year history of our athletics department to be retired. We are all extremely proud of Kevin.”
Byard, a four-year starter for the Blue Raiders from 2012-15, ended his career as the program’s all-time leader in interceptions (19), interception return yards (377), interception return touchdowns (4) and is one of just nine players in school history with 300 or more tackles. A team captain, Byard forced or gained 25 turnovers (19 INT, 5 FF, 1 FR) in 49 career games played.
The Lithonia, Ga., native was a first team all-conference selection and an FWAA Freshman All-American, while leading the team in interceptions all four years.
“This is an incredible honor for any athlete to have their number retired,” said Head Coach Rick Stockstill. “I am very proud of Kevin in what he accomplished here at Middle Tennessee and how he has transitioned into one of the best players in the NFL. More important than his skills as an elite athlete is how he has represented himself, his family, MTSU football and the Titans in a first class manner. KB is very deserving of this honor of having his number hanging in the stadium forever.”
Byard was selected with the first pick of the third round in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans and is now considered one of the top safeties in the NFL. He is a two-time All-Pro pick and was named the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year winner in 2020 for his work in the community.
From 2017 through 2019, Byard led the NFL with 17 interceptions and in 2020 he led the team and set a career-high with 111 tackles.
“Kevin embodies all of the qualities that warrant having a person’s number retired,” Massaro said. “Kevin is a high character individual who always exhibited a tremendous work ethic. He is a great leader who always gives his all on and off the field. We are very fortunate that Kevin has continued representing our University so well in our local market as a Tennessee Titan. This retirement is in appreciation for all Kevin has done for MTSU and what he continues to do as a Tennessee Titan and beyond.”