Kevin Byard has become the face of the Tennessee Titans defense, emerging as one of the premier safeties in the NFL. Through five seasons, Byard has collected 431 tackles, three sacks, and 18 interceptions — earning a Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro selection. Byard’s 18 interceptions since his rookie season (2016) lead all NFL safeties, not missing a single game in his career (made 73 consecutive starts).
While Byard has been incredible on the field, the same can be said for his performance off the field as well. Byard has teamed up with Campbell’s Chunky Soup to renovate the Davidson County Department of Children’s Services’ Safe Room in Nashville. In addition, Campbell’s is donating $8,000 worth of home appliances and 200 cans of soup to the foster home’s kitchen. The renovations from Byard create a safe space for 750 children currently in the Davidson County Foster System.
“My relationship with them started a year ago,” Byard said. “They’re always dedicated to celebrate guys like me, guys who work hard. They donated $8,000 worth of kitchen appliances and 300 cans for the house as well. It was really cool for them to step in and help out.”
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In an interview with CBS Sports, Byard discusses the renovation project and previews the 2021 Titans season.
What got you involved in the safe room project? How did this all come to be?
Byard: “So this all kind of got started when the Children’s Services hit me up in the spring to speak at their graduation ceremony. Of course I said I would do it, but me and my wife heard some of the stories about the kids that were coming through the system and some of the situations they faced.
“We definitely felt obligated to step in and try to help the kids out — at least the ones in the tough situations — and try to make them feel more comfortable. After we toured the building — and I have to give a lot of credit to my wife — she had the idea of renovating the space. So when the kids do come in here in the middle of the night, or if they have to stay a couple of days or whatever the situation, they can feel a little more comfortable during this traumatic time.
“It took a few months to get everything situated, but I’m definitely happy how everything turned out. It’s a blessing.”
This isn’t the first time you’ve been involved in helping kids. You’ve provided books, learning kits, ran football camps. How have you felt you’ve impacted their lives so far?
Byard: “The goal — it’s not making a huge, major impact — but making an impact on just one child. At the end of the day you can’t help everybody, but a drop in the river makes a ripple effect that goes far out. That was part of the idea, just impacting a small group of people.
“We think we did a pretty good job. I’m just glad and happy through my family foundation, this is something that will outlast me. That’s what I’m trying to do, make impacts on different things on different generations beyond mine.”
I’ve been to Nashville a couple times. It’s such a giving city. It appears you have embraced that mentality.
Byard: “Oh absolutely! Tennessee is the Volunteer State for a reason! I’ve been living here for a decade now. Being around this area, being around the people, you definitely sense that. Nashville is a polite city in general. I’m just trying to embrace the community since they embraced me so much. Just trying to give back what they’ve given me.”
Do you have any other plans in mind through your foundation?
Byard: “We do yearly things through the foundation. We had our football camp right before training camp got started. We had our community day at a local elementary school, which was a really cool back to school event. We gave away backpacks, we had a moon bounce for the kids, provided food and drink or all the kids and families. We have a Thanksgiving and Christmas event every year. which I’m super excited for.
“We always try to do something year round, but obviously throughout the season we have specific events we cater to.”
How’s Julio Jones been looking so far?
Byard: “Julio’s Julio. “He’s a monster. He’s an animal out there. He’s not a guy you take lightly. He’s a matchup problem for everybody. He’s a future Hall of Famer.
“He obviously looks good in the practices he was able to participate in. At the end of the day, he’s working his butt off to get back out there, and once he does he’ll be ready to go. I’m super excited to see him come regular season time.”
We know Tennessee’s offense is going to be good. What about the defense?
Byard: “We’re improving. That’s what it’s all about right now. We know last year wasn’t good enough. As far as training camp goes, we’ve been looking pretty good. We are just trying to see improvements from each group every day. Overall, we’ll let our actions speak when the season starts.”
Tennessee is good enough to go to the Super Bowl. What needs to happen in order for the Titans to get there?
Byard: “You know, we just have to stay the course. We’re not trying to win offseason awards or anything like that. We have great players, but it means nothing unless you put the work in and go out and improve every single day. That’s what we have to do.
“We can’t hold onto last year where we were great offensively. That doesn’t mean we’ll be great this year. We have to continue to come into practice and put the work in — because it’s a long year. You see teams that start off bad and make a historical run. This is about staying even keel and sticking to the plan.
“With the talent that we have, it’s a championship roster. We just have to continue putting the work in.”