NFL star lauded for his fightback from paralysis is killed in car crash

An American football star hailed as an inspiration for learning to walk again after being paralysed by an injury on the field, has been killed in a car crash. Dennis Byrd, who played for the New York Jets, died when his Hummer was hit in a head-on crash in Oklahoma. The 17-year-old driver of the other car and his 12-year-old passenger were taken to hospital with serious injuries. Tributes poured in for 50-year-old Byrd, whose inspirational story was turned into a book and movie and who was admired throughout the sport for both his decency and his determination.

Soft-spoken and strong-willed, the inspiration he provided to all not only by his play on the field but from the way he overcame life’s obstacles was remarkable by any measure

New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson

Byrd, a 6ft 5in, 270lb man mountain, was a second-round draft pick of the Jets in 1989 out of the University of Tulsa but only played for four years. In 1992, he slammed headfirst into the chest of a teammate and suffered extensive damage to his neck and spinal cord. Doctors weren’t sure if he would walk again but he battled back and was on his feet again within a year. “He overcame great personal adversity after a life-altering injury on the football field. We know that Dennis touched numerous lives and will be missed by many,” said University of Tulsa athletic director Derrick Gragg.

He made himself into the player he was. He wasn’t a guy born with tremendous size. He worked hard in the weight room, gained weight, got big, had a high motor

Tulsa teammate Jerry Ostroski