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Armor of God

A football player needs more than his pads to face the blows of life.
by David Kovacs, LC | Source:
Just a few months before, it had happened to a fellow athlete, but it still never really occurred to Dennis Byrd that he could be next. Lying on the turf under the gray New Jersey sky, incapable of moving a muscle, he realized that his career as a New York Jet was over; he was now embarking on a journey that would try his faith more sorely than ever before.

Faith was something familiar to him. It was what had sustained Dennis already through trying moments, an inherited legacy that reached back like roots in the rich Oklahoma soil to his parents’ grandparents in the Great Depression.

The Byrd family was accustomed to survival through tough times. They even had to live in an old school bus for a while, a cause for some embarrassment when his girlfriend, who he would eventually marry, finally found out where he lived. What got them through all the ups and downs was the bond that held them together as a family and their faith in a higher power that had control of their destiny.

Although he became a professional football player, he still wasn’t known as the Big Byrd – that was his older brother, and the little Byrd wasn’t counted as much. The Byrds were known for playing physical, and when they started a game, others made themselves scarce, knowing that feathers would soon begin to fly. Dennis thrived on this atmosphere, and through determination and long hours of practice, slowly but surely rose in the ranks of high school and college football.

Even though he became more and more a topic of the locals when football was brought up, which was more often than not, it wasn’t what attracted Angela to the rising star. She fell in love with the man, not the football player. She too possessed a deep faith, and her faith later proved tough enough to sustain them both in trials as strong as the all too familiar tornados that Oklahoma is famous for.

It might as well have been a tornado that hit Dennis on the gridiron that fateful day, but it was instead his massive teammate who had zeroed in on the same target – the opposing quarterback. The impact shattered his C5 vertebra, the fifth one down, and left him face down on the grass, unable to feel anything except the fear that rose in his throat. Would he ever walk again? Would he ever be able to hold his wife, his daughter, in his arms? So many questions that only time would answer.

In the ambulance, Dennis prayed that God grant him the faith and strength to get through this trial, desperately holding on to Angela’s hand, and his belief that God knew better, and was looking out for him.

As time went by, and the realization that he might never walk again sank in, he thought of the rest of his life, and Angela’s. With one daughter, and another on the way, how would she be able to take care of the kids and him? She had married a man who prided himself on his physical prowess, an athlete. That’s what he was. Now he was paralyzed, unable to perform even the most normal functions of life.

No, it would be too much. He told her one day that he would understand if she chose to leave him. Tears came into her eyes, and a look of hurt.

“How can you say that? How can you even think that?”
She had promised to love him for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and she would stay by his side until death.

* * *

Dennis did walk again, a miracle brought about through his faith and love, and that of Angela and his friends and the medical professionals. Today he is able to live a completely normal life, hold his wife and daughters, and encourage others with his testimony.

“Be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11

Information taken from Rise and Walk, the Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd.

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