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When on defense, USF football team is playing a game of Angry Byrd

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At the time, the Angry Byrd wasn’t mad. He was just frustrated.

Jamie Byrd didn’t want to play this new hybrid position his coaches call a “husky.” He wanted to be a free safety again and roam the back end. He thought it was better for the team and better for himself. If he was deep rather than close to the line of scrimmage.

So Byrd sat in the office of coach Willie Taggart, and he pleaded his case for Taggart to put things back the way they were. And Taggart looked at him and smiled. “Just give it a chance,” he said. “Just try it.”

And so the Angry Byrd – one of college football’s best nicknames – was born.

You don’t have to look very far to find Byrd on a Saturday afternoon. He’s usually around the ball. He’s the second-leading tackler on the South Florida team. He leads in tackles for loss with eight. He leads in sacks with four. He leads in unassisted tackles with 35.

“He will hit anybody,” Taggart said. “Off the field, he’s the nicest guy you could imagine. But on the field, he’s Angry. I think if you asked him, he wouldn’t want to go back now.”

The Bulls, who play Navy Saturday, will need Byrd to be a impact player again. You know, like he was against UConn, when he had 12 tackles. In his last two games, Byrd has 22 tackles, including 6½ for losses.

Against Navy’s offense on Saturday, Byrd figures to be a key part of the Bulls’ defense again if USF is to keep its winning streak at four.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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