With the recent barrage of players “declaring” for the USFL Draft, I had the privilege of interviewing Dontez Byrd about his plans and his view on the past spring leagues he’s played in. After leaving Tennessee Tech Dontez Byrd has played in the NFL, AAF, XFL, IFL and CFL. He looks forward to competing in the upcoming USFL.
PR: Let’s talk about your pre-draft process in 2018, you left Louisville and exploded in production at Tennessee Tech, what was your mindset leaving a larger school to transitioning to an FCS school?
DB: When I left Louisville to transfer to Tennessee Tech I knew that transferring down would require me to stay extremely focused so that I could maximize the opportunity that Marcus Satterfield (Former Tennessee Tech HC) provided.
PR: When did you realize playing professionally was a possibility? At what point did you realize that you were going to get signed by an NFL team. Was it during the draft, before the draft etc?
DB: My Junior year at Tennessee Tech we went up against the University of Tennessee at Tennessee and that was kind of my coming out campaign because I showed that I belonged on that stage and could play with the best.
PR: Explain what training camp is like as an undrafted free agent. How was it being around guys like Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and Mohammad Sanu?
DB: NFL training camp was very fast-paced and I enjoyed being out there. Mohammad Sanu and Julio were very hands on with us rookies and explained/showed us everything we needed to know to succeed. It was a blessing being able to be on the field with those two guys and Matt Ryan.
PR: After getting cut, when did you know that the AAF was an option. What were your expectations for the league, yourself, and making a living?
DB: After getting cut I kind of waited around for an opportunity that was seeming unlikely with the NFL. With the AAF I was not one of the initial guys that were picked up right away and while waiting I signed with a new Agent and was able to get in the AAF with a week left of training camp and went right in and gave it my all and made the final roster
PR: Were you fully compensated/was your contract honored from the AAF?
DB: No Reply
PR: What was the process of signing with the XFL, were you nervous due to the uncertainty of the AAF? Did you think the XFL would have succeeded if COVID never happened?
DB: The process with the XFL was almost the same as I experienced prior to joining the AAF. I wasn’t drafted in the XFL and signed with my current agent I have now Harold Lewis and while I was waiting to get in the XFL I was filling out job applications. When I went to my job interview, Tony Softli who was the Director of Player Personnel for the Seattle Dragons called and flew me out to training camp and when I arrived, they had 4 days left of training camp, but I knew that I have been praying and hoping for the opportunity, so I went in camp fresh off the plane and gave it my all and made the roster. I really enjoyed playing in the XFL despite COVID happening. I definitely think the XFL would have succeeded if it wasn’t for COVID, fans loved the league, and we had a great turnout every game no matter how the weather was.
PR: Were you fully compensated for your time in the XFL?
DB: No Reply
PR: Explain being an American in the CFL? How was that transition? Rules, lifestyle etc.
DB: I was released 4 days before reporting across the border for training camp. It was an unfortunate situation that I had no control of.
When you got cut by the Tiger-Cats, did you think your career was over?
DB: After being released by the Tiger-Cats I knew that I wasn’t done or ready to throw in the towel on my career and a couple days later I signed with Mass Pirates of the IFL.
PR: What’s life like in the IFL, how did you get involved with that or get selected to play in that league?
DB: Life in the IFL was definitely humbling because it was a different style of football that I was not familiar with and the field size wasn’t your normal outdoor size. Jawaad Yatim the owner of the Pirates reached out after I was released from the CFL and got me in right away and I was very thankful for the opportunity to continue doing what I love.
PR: What’s compensation like for playing in the IFL or arena leagues in general?
DB: No Reply
PR: What’s the process right now for you and the USFL? Do you have any reservations? How did they contact you?
DB: I am very excited about the opportunity that the USFL is providing this spring. I have not heard from the USFL personally, but I am in the Draft Per Representation but still waiting to sign the official contract for the league.
PR: Would you play in the XFL if an opportunity came?
DB: Definitely would play in the XFL again if I’m available when the opportunity comes around, but my time is ticking and I’m ready to play now (2022).
PR: What has been your favorite experience playing professionally so far?
DB: My favorite experience had to be when I was with the Atlanta Falcons making plays and taking advantage of that opportunity on the highest stage.
PR: Do you know what you’d like to do after playing football professionally?
DB: After my football career I would like to go in to coaching and give back to the game. I feel like I have always been a student of the game and led by example and I wouldn’t mind doing that from a coaching standpoint.
Thank you for your time, Dontez. I appreciate you taking the time to talk and answers my question a lot! For those looking for more info about Dontez Byrd check out this interview done by XFLNEWSHUB from 2020 down below.
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