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When you get your voter registration card, most people pencil "Joe Theismann" into the "Favorite Football Injury?" field. I, being the out-of-the-box thinker that I am, usually put down Dennis Byrd. Dennis Byrd's paralysis on the field during a football game was the kind of horrible injury that shocked the general public. Of course, if you played high school football, the first practice of the year always consisted of watching some doctors and coaches talk over 20 minutes of video of REAL football players....LIKE YOU! getting their necks broken. But forgive everyone else's horror, because if you haven't had the "pleasure" of watching dozens of athletes get their necks broken over and over again, you might still have the capacity to be shocked by such an injury.

The creamy filling to the Byrd story was that he regained the ability to walk in pretty remarkable time. To be fair, regaining this ability in any duration would have to be labeled as remarkable. But being able to do so within less than a year of the injury was so over-the-top remarkable that some people understandably wondered if this was a Vince McMahon storyline. Of course the XFL wasn't around yet, but I can sympathize with the suspicion.

Real Life Career:

A little research into the career of Dennis Byrd shows that the man was legit on the gridiron. A lot of his amazing Tecmo abilities can be probably be traced to the fact that he had twenty sacks in his first two seasons, including thirteen in the year prior to Tecmo's immaculate birth. Not counting the injury year, Byrd had 27 sacks in his short three-year career, or roughly equal to his three-game total in most Tecmo MAN seasons. Unfortunately, or perhaps luckily considering the circumstances of his recovery, Byrd will only be remembered for the previously mentioned injury.

It was in a 1992 game that Byrd came around the tackle virtually untouched and looked to rearrange Dave Krieg into a fine paste. Krieg, in a completely unexpected display of mobility, stepped up in the pocket to avoid the sack. A diving Dennis Byrd was left completely prone and unable to protect himself - much like Krieg in most Tecmo games - and rammed head-first into teammate Scott Mersereau's torso which was also coming in to end the career, or perhaps just the play, of Dave Krieg.

It wasn't until Byrd's injury that video game archaeologists were able to decipher the cryptic message coded into the "x's" at the bottom of the page:

Man with speed of team name emerges with plane game before neck failure shatters same. KO QB misplaces his periods, Toon drops "T" for "L", Broadway Joe/Kolber hotel room yow!
Byrd went disgustingly limp and crumpled to the turf. I am well aware that there is a sizeable majority of you reading this who are remorseful, not so much because Byrd got hurt, but because a sack likely would have sidelined Krieg allowing the myth that is Kelly Stouffer to trot onto the field. But you can stop your crying, heartless Tecmo addicts, because Krieg was playing for the Chiefs at this time.

Byrd gained a full recovery from his injury, which was documented on an ABC news magazine and in a made-for-TV movie. "Rise and Walk" became a critical success, while the alternative film "Smooth as Owl Shit: The Kelly Stouffer Phenomenon" has yet to finish production.

Tecmo Career:

Before lurching was discovered at the University of San Diego in 1994 and then subsequently banned by an international treaty signed by everyone except myself and the Nation of Islam, inside linebackers were the ultimate Tecmo sack machines. Nobody better personified this than Dennis Byrd. I can remember witnessing Dennis Byrd amassing 100 sacks for the first time in my Tecmo-viewing life and thinking that we were now witnessing the coming of the Tecmo demigod foretold in the coded Tecmo Sports News page in the original Tecmo Bowl.

The mode of operation with Tecmo Dennis was pretty standard. Like many "real" football players will tell you, Tecmo Dennis was to be controlled in a manner that led to minimal blocking and maximum quarterback sacking. This was made much easier by the fact that Dennis had the speed of Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez and the power of a song by Snap.

There was a time when naturally, Byrd was recognized on the video game as "the dude with the broken neck" or "the guy who got his vertebrae shattered like a vase fired from a howitzer." The latter, not surprisingly, was the more common recitation. But with most people now forgetting about Byrd's cataclysm due to aging or because they have since been deluged with thousands of feel-good stories in the Winter Olympics alone, Byrd is now resting comfortably predominantly on his Tecmo laurels.

Every squad on Tecmo could be conceivably labeled as "someone's team." The Oilers are Warren Moon's team, the Raiders are Mike Dyal's, and the Jets unquestionably are Byrd's. While the Jets' well-documented struggles with their quarterback and his punctuation shortcomings continue to hamper their operations, the privilege of controlling Byrd on the other side of the ball is enough to make almost any gamer satisfied with his selection of the New York Jets.


Running Speed- 38
This is the running speed of an average Dennis Byrd. The thing about Byrd is that he's deceptively quick. Whereas a player like Bruce Smith is overwhelmingly fast to the point that he often becomes uncontrollable, Byrd never seems to leave a zone of comfort for the human controller. I borrowed the preceeding description from the packaging of a device I saw at an adult bookstore.

Rushing Power- 50
The fact that Dennis Byrd was able to explode his spine by running into a moveable pile of flesh is probably evidence that Tecmo underestimated this attribute.

Maximum Speed- 56
Assuming that modern medicine uses Tecmo categories to gauge a person's physical recovery - a pretty safe assumption - I'm curious what post-injury Dennis's rating is here.

Hitting Power- 69
My Dad used to tell me that you could measure a man's worth by his hitting power on Tecmo and as I get older, I'm beginning to fully appreciate the wisdom in this. The more I think about it, it might not have been my Dad and may just have been myself with stomach full of Wild Turkey, but I don't really think the details are that important.

Interceptions- 25
This is pretty useless. Any contest involving Dennis Byrd and a quarterback ends in a pile of sacks and a dearth of attempted passes. I think it might be a better idea to label each quarterback with a rating that gauges his potential to get off at least one pass in a game before Byrd maims him. Mike Elkins and his 15 rating are currently the clubhouse leader.

Quickness- 69
This isn't a measure of physical abilities. Rather, it is a benchmark for mental acumen. Byrd earned this rating when someone teased him about his back and he quickly responded with "Nice face."