South Carolina Football: Former Gamecock gets new NFL opportunity, sets record

South Carolina football wide receiver alum Damiere Byrd gets another NFL opportunity, moving him to become the only Gamecock WR to play a decade in the league.
South Carolina football alum Damiere Byrd
South Carolina football alum Damiere Byrd / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina football wide receiver Damiere Byrd signed a new contract with the Washington Commanders on Wednesday.

The contract is a one-year deal and reunites Byrd with former Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury who is now the offensive coordinator in Washington. He provides the Commanders with veteran wide receiver depth, excellent top-end speed, and an intriguing option on special teams thanks to the new kickoff rules in the league.

Byrd, quietly, has had a long NFL career. After signing with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent ahead of the 2015 season, Byrd has had stints with the Atlanta Falcons (twice), Panthers again, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, and Houston Texans. His top season came in 2020 with the Patriots when he was a primary starter and had career-best numbers in receptions (47) and receiving yards (604).

Despite the long history of great South Carolina football alums at the wide receiver position in the NFL, Byrd's signing sets a new record: he is the first Gamecock wideout to play 10 seasons in the NFL.

Sterling Sharpe's neck injury ended his career after seven years, Sidney Rice's career was also cut short by injury after 7 years, and Robert Brooks, Alshon Jeffery, and Marcus Robinson all played 9 seasons. Alex Hawkins played 10 years in the league, but he bounced back and forth between running back and receiver during different years of his career and only spent five as a receiver. Dan Reeves was a part-time receiver along with his running back duties but didn't play ten years.

Deebo Samuel is about to start his 6th season as a pro and seems destined for a decade-long career (or longer). Xavier Legette (rookie), Ahmarean Brown (rookie), and Jalen Brooks (2nd year) are all active, and Shi Smith (potential 4th year) still has a realistic chance to sign a deal this offseason. As active players, all of these receivers have a chance to challenge Byrd's Gamecock record.

During his South Carolina football career, Byrd totaled over 1400 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns while providing excellent special teams work on coverage units.

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