Solomon Byrd had a singular journey changing into a USC playmaker

Lengthy earlier than his second lastly arrived, Solomon Byrd was already fed up with ready.

He was pissed off with the recruiting course of. He wasn’t getting the eye he anticipated. A number of colleges, comparable to Fresno State and San Diego State, had proven curiosity however issues by no means materialized. He thought different colleges wouldn’t trouble popping out to the desert, the place Byrd starred at Palmdale Knight Excessive, not a soccer energy.

He took it personally. The summer time earlier than his senior season, Byrd got here to USC for a Rising Stars camp and seethed as he in contrast himself to different top-billed prospects in attendance.

“I really wanted to get to the next level,” Byrd mentioned. “These guys who had stars and whatever, I was playing better than them. But no offer for me.”

The supply Byrd needed would come years later, main him to USC, the place he has emerged over the previous two video games because the breakout go rusher the USC protection so desperately wanted. After opening the season third on the depth chart — and enjoying simply 5 snaps in his Trojan debut — Byrd is now tied for second within the Pac-12 with three sacks.

With Romello Top nonetheless nursing a shoulder harm, extra alternative awaits. USC coach Lincoln Riley lately held Byrd up as an “example of what we’re trying to build.” Alex Grinch, the Trojans’ defensive coordinator, known as him “the poster child” for USC’s defensive mindset.

He wasn’t all the time in that head area. After receiving few faculty presents, Byrd ended up on the College of Wyoming in Laramie.

“I was pretty immature at the time,” Byrd mentioned.

Nonetheless, AJ Cooper noticed potential. Because the Wyoming defensive position coach, Cooper assist set Byrd on a unique path.

“He was really hard on me,” Byrd recollects.

Wyoming defensive finish Solomon Byrd can’t fairly attain Boise State quarterback Chase Twine on Nov. 9, 2019.

(Steve Conner / Related Press)

It was precisely what he wanted. Cooper, who now works at Washington State, pushed Byrd in methods he hadn’t been pushed earlier than. He challenged Byrd to disregard every part exterior of his management.

The message caught.

“He kind of made me realize why I wasn’t where I wanted to be,” Byrd mentioned. “I think that’s where it hit me, looking inward at myself and knowing that it’s not about everything else. I have to make sure I’m all the way right, before I get any opportunity.”

So Byrd got down to proper himself.

It didn’t take lengthy. As a redshirt freshman, Byrd obtained 6½ sacks, rising as the most effective younger go rushers within the Mountain West Convention. Obstacles would obscure his alternatives from there. First, it was COVID-19, which induced him to sit down out 2020. Then, a shoulder harm minimize his 2021 season to only eight video games. He nonetheless managed 3½ sacks.

Byrd jokes that the chilly of Wyoming hardened his exterior and helped him develop up. However after three years in Laramie, he puzzled if there is perhaps extra on the market. So, he entered his title into the NCAA switch portal. Inside two weeks, USC reached out.

However that preliminary curiosity dried up. He was informed Riley nonetheless needed to consider the roster. Byrd figured they have been simply stringing him alongside.

“But they really did [evaluate the roster],” Byrd mentioned. “A lot of guys left in the spring.”

Already dedicated to Georgia Tech, Byrd flipped to USC. That summer time, he arrived in Los Angeles a bit out of form, delaying his impression.

“He’s really had an impact for us. We’re dying to find those playmakers.”

— USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch on Solomon Byrd

USC defensive lineman Solomon Byrd celebrates after recovering a fumble by Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener.

USC defensive lineman Solomon Byrd celebrates after recovering a fumble by Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Instances)

“It was hard, not gonna lie,” Byrd mentioned. “I came from Wyoming, and I was a starter and a big name up there. When I came down here, there was a lot of talent.”

However this time, Byrd knew the best way to make the most effective of it. He put his head down and labored by way of the frustration. He tried to not assume too far into the long run. He talked it by way of together with his spouse, Taysia. He turned to teammate Nick Figueroa, who informed him to be affected person as a result of, “Your opportunity will come.”

Byrd didn’t wait lengthy. By Week 2, he was blazing into the Stanford backfield, getting a pair of big-time sacks. The next week, he go off the sting early within the second half in opposition to Fresno State and slammed into quarterback Jake Haener, forcing a key fumble and knocking Haener out of the sport.

“Coach Grinch is always talking about opportunities and making the best of them,” linebacker Eric Gentry mentioned. “[Byrd] is really doing that.”

Grinch added: “He’s really had an impact for us. We’re dying to find those playmakers.”

After USC’s 45-17 win over Fresno State, Riley singled out Byrd’s efficiency by giving him the sport ball, a significant memento for a participant who for thus lengthy had been missed.

That’s now not the case for Byrd. Although, he hasn’t spent a lot time worrying about that these days.

“I’m just going to work hard and let everything else come as it does.”