Brett Byford wasn't much of a college football fan while growing up in Hartselle, Alabama. However, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive guard prospect is quickly becoming a fan of the college game now that he is generating interest and scholarship offers from schools from across the nation.
"I wasn't a big college football fan growing up," Byford said. "Now I'm looking at these teams recruiting me and getting a lot more interested."
"I have offers from Southern Mississippi, South Carolina, Nebraska, Vanderbilit, Clemson, Oklahoma, Memphis, and Georgia Tech. I'd say Nebraska and Vanderbilt are recruiting me the hardest right now. Nebraska Fed Ex's their correspondence to me. I think that's pretty cool."
Byford recently got an up close and personal look at the Nebraska campus with his father. The two men visited Nebraska unofficially last weekend. Their look at the Husker program left a lasting impression on both of them.
"It was incredible," Byford said. "The facilities were nice but the biggest thing was the coaches. I loved them. I liked Lincoln a lot too. It wasn't too big and I like that. My dad liked everything a lot too."
"My two favorite coaches in the recruiting process are Coach Turner Gill and Coach Ron Brown of Nebraska. Coach Brown he is a man of God. I fell in love with him. He was awesome. I even bought a book about him. I've been bragging all week about him at my church. He is definitely tight. Coach Gill is great too he is handling my recruitment."
Byford said that he found a lot in common with both Brown and Gill. He said that all share a very strong religious faith.
"I want to make it clear that all of the attention I'm getting now from schools and stuff is because what God has done in my life," Byford said. "I wasn't doing much of anything on the football field or the classroom until I was saved the second semester of my sophomore year. Since then I've become a better person and have become a lot better in football. Now schools like Nebraska are recruiting me. I feel guilty when articles are written about me and Jesus isn't mentioned. It's because of him that I am where I am at today."
Byford is, undoubtedly, one of the top offensive line prospects in the southeast portion of the United States. Playing for Hartselle High in rural Hartselle, Alabama (population 14,000), Byford is one of the more heavily recruited players in that state heading into the 2002 season.
Byford has started on the offensive line for Hartselle since his sophomore year in high school. Although he played his first two seasons at offensive tackle, his coaches intend to utilize him as an offensive guard in 2002.
"We run the ball," Byford said. "That's basically all we do. We run a lot straight up the gut as well as some option. It would be great to play for a school that runs the football a lot although I'm a pretty decent pass blocker as well."
Byford helped pave the way for Hartselle's starting tailback to gain over 1,200 yards rushing (and a 6.9 yards per carry average) in 2001. For his efforts, he was named first team all area and was an honorable mention all state selection.
"Some say that I have pretty good footwork," Byford said. "I guess you could say I'm pretty good at pulling and getting out and running. I love to run block. I kind of like being the aggressor."
Byford clocks a consistent 5.1 second forty yard dash while also claiming a 300-pound bench press. He also squats 500-pounds and recorded a 24-inch vertical jump earlier this summer at a one day Alabama camp. Byford is also fully qualified on the academic front as he maintains a 3.7 cumulative GPA and recorded a score of 24 on the ACT exam earlier this summer.
Byford now turns a lot of his focus to the recruiting process. He has been surprised my all of the early attention but hopes that it helps lead him to his eventual decision.
"I went to a one day camp at Alabama and was going to go to a couple of others like Nebraska and Georgia Tech," Byford said. "Then those schools offered me scholarships and I decided I didn't need to spend the money and perform at the camps. I took a visit down to Nebraska anyway and I plan to drive to Oklahoma sometime before the end of the summer."
"Right now, I'd list all eight schools that have offered me scholarships in my top group. My top three would probably be Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Southern Miss. Alabama and Auburn may have been attractive options a couple of months ago but as time has passed, I don't think I'd have much interest in them even if they do offer."
Although Byford isn't ready to make his decision yet, he admits that one school stands out above the rest at this stage in the recruiting process.
"I've had more contact with Nebraska and I really liked that visit," Byford said. "The coaches there really had an impact on me. If I had to make the decision on my own, that is where I'd probably go."
"I'm going to pray about it and wherever God tells me to go that's where I'll go. The facilities, tradition, and some of the rest of that stuff doesn't really matter. I want to go where Jesus wants me to be. It would be nice to have a decision before the season starts but I'd kind of like to make an unofficial visit or two before I announce."
Byford's education on the game of college football continues and doesn't look to be ending any time soon.
"When we were in Lincoln, my dad and I saw a video at a store for $1 about the 1997 Nebraska National Title team," Byford said. "I was watching it when you called. I didn't realize some of the stuff Nebraska was doing then."