Good Sports: Hatari Byrd

FRESNO, Calif.

For Hatari Byrd, graduation is just the start of bigger things to come. Last fall, Central Senior Hatari Byrd made playing football, look easy.

A top-15 recruit in the nation at safety, Byrd stood out on a talented Grizzlies squad.

"A lot of people talk about his athletic ability," said Central Football Coach Justin Garza. "He has unbelievable talent. But once you get past that there's a lot more in there."

A lot more obstacles to overcome… than most high school football stars. His parents were not a major factor in his life early on. And he spent much of his childhood in and out of foster care.

"It was kind of hard for me because my parents didn't really care what I did," said Byrd. "I didn't really have any rules."

Lacking discipline and an outlet to share his feelings or even vent, Byrd soon found himself confiding in Central Assistant Tony Perry.

"Hatari's a kid that had some hard times coming up," said Perry. "But he stayed strong and accepted it. He took care of his business and everything worked out well for him."

"Helping me stay focused on football and taking me to camps," said Byrd. "When I was feeling like stuff was going on I would get away and go eat somewhere with him and talk to him and just get away for a little bit."

With a renewed focus, both in the classroom and on the field, Byrd had his choice of four year school to attend in the fall, eventually picking perennial Big 12 power Oklahoma.

"Coach Garza, Tony Perry, Coach Clayton, Judy in the office, they all kept me focused and kept me straightforward," said Byrd. "So once my signing day came I was really proud. I couldn't really speak. I was just proud of myself."

From undisciplined child, to proud high school graduate, Byrd knows how far he's come.

"I did it. I'm almost there," said Byrd. "Something that my siblings didn't do. So I feel like I changed something in our family."

And he knows he's not done doing big things, quite yet.

"I'm going to be the first person in my family to get a degree," said Byrd. "So that's what I'm going to be working on too. Education comes first but I'm still going to try to do my thing in football."

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