DENNIS Byrd, the former New York Jets lineman who defied predictions and walked again after suffering a broken neck, died on Saturday in a road accident in Oklahoma, US media reported.
Byrd, 50, was involved in a two-vehicle collision that “sent two others to the hospital in critical condition,” the Tulsa World reported, saying he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Byrd broke the C-5 vertebra in his neck in a Jets game against the Kansas City Chiefs on November 29, 1992, when he collided with teammate Scott Mersereau as both raced toward quarterback Dave Krieg.
After months of intensive physical therapy he made good on his vow to walk again.
Byrd made an emotional return to the Jets’ Meadowlands stadium for the team’s opening game in 1993 and walked to the middle of the field as an honorary captain for the coin toss.
He wrote a memoir, Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd, detailing his recovery that included a heavy reliance on his faith, and was the subject of a made-for-television movie, Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story.
After his official retirement in 1993, Byrd became a motivational speaker and later a television commentator before moving back to his native Oklahoma.
The Jets retired his number 90 in 2012.
Byrd, who lived in rural Talala, Oklahoma, is survived by his wife, Angela, and four children.