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Shrine Game gives Jamie Byrd a chance to prove he belongs in the NFL

Senior husky Jamie Byrd (2) was the only player selected from USF to play in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Saturday at
4 p.m. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Jamie Byrd made his name known at USF. Blindsiding quarterbacks and demolishing wide receivers were just some of his hobbies.

After bouncing around from TCU to Iowa Western Community College — before transferring to USF — the Bull has begun to look to the near future at something he’s always dreamed of: being drafted.

“It’s a big honor,” Byrd said. “I’m amongst the best out here.”

Byrd was the lone Bull selected to take part in the East-West Shrine Game this Saturday at Tropicana Field. Surrounded by elite college athletes, media and a mass of NFL scouts after today’s practice at Shorecrest Preparatory School, the opportunity at hand began to sink in.

“I’m just trying to do the best I can at all times,” Byrd said. “(Scouts) are looking for you to do everything right and be at your best to see if you can play with these players. I’m basically trying to play at their speed or play faster than them. Just put on a good show.”

Byrd led USF in tackles and sacks last season at 185 pounds. NFL athletes are bigger, stronger and faster — all the more reason to put on some weight heading into the draft.

Byrd is training with Fit Speed and looks to put on 10 pounds as soon as possible to fit in better with an NFL scheme.

Playing husky in former USF defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s defense, Byrd was taken out of the traditional free safety role and transformed into a roaming nickel back. Now returning to free safety, Byrd said he feels right back at home.

“Today was just the first day of practices, so I was kind of just running to the ball. But once we get those pads on, I’ll be able to make those hits I’m used to making,” Byrd said.

Projected as a late-round selection, if drafted at all, Byrd plays with a chip on his shoulder — out to disprove his doubters.

“I play with a chip on my shoulder every time I play because I’m not the biggest guy,” Byrd said. “I have to play with that chip anywhere I go. That chip won’t go anywhere.”

As the huddle broke at the end of practice, Byrd was approached by a scout with the San Diego Chargers. Although he loves the hype, Byrd said he just has to stay even-keel and do what he needs to do.

“It’s a great feeling, but I know there’s a lot more grinding to come,” Byrd said. “I try to keep my head level and not think about it and let God take over.”

Byrd already has a connection with the Chargers. In his freshman season at TCU, senior safety — and current Charger — Jason Verrett mentored him and showed him what he needed to do to be successful.

“He motivated me to stick around and keep my mind focused,” Byrd said of the third-year pro.

Prior to the Shrine Game, Byrd signed with agent Aston Wilson — the same agent who represents former teammates Reshard Cliett (Texans) and Mike McFarland (free agent).

Byrd has a long way to go before the draft in May, but he knows his dedication will pay off.

“Me being undersized, that’s going to (force) me to put extra stuff out here,” he said. “So, I have to go the extra mile and get them to love me, not just like me.”

—Follow on Twitter @JacobHoagUSF