Ex-Jet Dennis Byrd, who overcame paralyzing injury, dies in vehicle crash

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Ex-Jet Dennis Byrd, who overcame paralyzing injury, dies in vehicle crash

Dennis Byrd, a former National Football League defensive lineman who recovered to walk again after breaking his neck in a game, died in an Oklahoma vehicle accident today according to the Tulsa World.

Byrd was 50 years old.

Byrd played for the New York Jets from 1989-1992. However, he eventually was able to walk again after physical therapy.

Byrd was involved in a two-vehicle auto crash on a highway north of Claremore, Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol told Tulsa World.

The crash reportedly occurred at 11:15 a.m when the 17-year-old driver of a 2000 Ford Explorer veered into oncoming traffic and struck Byrd head-on.

A 12-year-old passenger of Byrd's vehicle was also taken to the hospital with multiple injuries. He had a tremendous playing career at TU and professionally with the New York Jets. He broke his neck after slamming headfirst into the chest of teammate Scott Mersereau as Chiefs quarterback David Krieg stepped forward to avoid a sack.

The broken vertebra in his neck left Byrd paralyzed from the waist down for a brief time.

Byrd, a second-round pick of the Jets in 1989, returned to Giants Stadium on September 5, 1993, walking to midfield for the Jets' home opener as an honorary captain. He played only four years, but his inspirational story became the subject of a book and a TV movie.

In October 2012, the Jets honored Byrd by retiring his No. 90 in a halftime ceremony during the team's game against the Miami Dolphins. He was killed on Oklahoma 88 north of Claremore, said Tulsa World.

One of the Jets' team awards is now named after Byrd.

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