Kevin Byard had 19 interceptions during his college career at nearby Middle Tennessee.
His ballhawk ability was one of the primary reasons the Tennessee Titans selected him with the first pick of the third round in the 2016 draft.
But last year in his rookie season, Byard had no interceptions, despite his reputation and production in college.
But on Sunday, Byard made the most of his opportunities, as he was a one-man wrecking crew in the Titans’ secondary, collecting three interceptions off of Browns quartebacks Deshone Kizer and Cody Kessler. Those three picks give Byard a team-high four interceptions for the season, as he became the first Titans with three interceptions in a game since Keith Bulluck did it in 2007 during a Monday night game in New Orleans.
“It was unbelievable. I mean I’m not going to sit here and say I came here to the game expecting to get three picks,” Byard said. “I definitely wanted to come into the game and make the best impact that I can on this team. We tried to get a win here in Cleveland. It was a big win going into the bye week so that was big for us.”
On the second and third interceptions, it appeared that Byard left the area he was in and read the football to make a play on the ball much like another former Dick LeBeau standout – Troy Palomalu – used to do with the Steelers.
“It was a lot of film work. A lot of just sticking to my technique and a lot of work in practice” Byard said. “I kind of knew it today that the quarterbacks were looking down the pipe on a lot of receivers, so they weren’t going to both sides of the field. I was kind of locked in on him a little bit. It paid off today.”
The Titans didn’t convert any of Byard’s three picks into points, as the offense struggled all day long. But Byard’s performance at least helped keep the Browns at bay.
“It was a great game by him. He was around the ball,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “It’s one thing to be where you’re supposed to be, but the second thing is making the play. He’s been doing that. His time was coming. I didn’t know he was going to get three; I don’t think anybody believed he could do three, but he’s always around the ball. He’s having a good year.”