TU's Homecoming Celebrations Honor Dennis Byrd

Friday, October 21st 2016, 11:46 pm
By: News On 6

It's homecoming weekend at TU but worked into the celebrations are tributes to honor the late Dennis Byrd.  

Byrd died in a car crash Saturday just north of Claremore.

The went above and beyond to remember number 48.  

Thousands of students and alumni are descending upon the campus to take part in this weekend's homecoming events, but on many people's minds is the loss of TU great Dennis Byrd. 

For some, like TU's Dom Tomkalski, describing Dennis Byrd is easy.

"Competitive, sincere, hard worker, great work ethic and great determination," Tomkalski said. 

He played football for the Golden Hurricane in the 1980s and was drafted by the New York Jets but suffered a neck injury that ended his career. 

"On our list of all-time tacklers, he's the only defensive lineman that has over 300 tackles," Tomkalski said.

Byrd was driving in an SUV with his son on Route 88 north of Claremore when they were hit head on.  His son survived, but Byrd passed away at the scene. 

"You never think it's going to touch you and it does, and it's touched the university," Tomkalski said.

So, TU wanted to remember Byrd in a fitting way, incorporating a tribute into the homecoming weekend.

"Fireworks and all, it's a special day," Tomkalski said.

"And this will remain on the helmet this year, and it's just a small token," Tomkalski said. 

TU's athletic department also took Byrd's number 48 and painted it onto the field at the 48-yard-line as a way to honor and pay respect to the lineman  

"It is a family, and the guys that come back they are a part of that family.  And Dennis was part of that family," Tomkalski said.

Friday, while students and alumni took part in a pep rally and bonfire to celebrate Hurricane pride, they were also remembering Byrd. 

"We've got some good athletics here but you don't often get NFL players, so it was just phenomenal," said 2016 Distinguished Alumni Caron Lawhorn. 

"He was a spectacular person and super record, and he'll be missed by everybody," said 2016 Distinguished Alumni Jim Wallis. 

TU plays Tulane Saturday at home. 

Kickoff will be just before 3 p.m., with a special moment of silence for Dennis Byrd before the game gets underway. 

A memorial service for Byrd is scheduled for Tuesday, October 25, 2016, at 1 p.m. at Church On The Move, 1003 North 129th East Avenue.