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Titans safety Kevin Byard stays grounded in Christ as he leads Tennessee defense

The Tennessee Titans once again find themselves atop the AFC South. After winning the division last season for the first time since 2008, they’re 3-2 through five weeks this season.

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They defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 37-19, on Sunday, the Titans’ third victory in their last four games. Safety Kevin Byard played a key role for the Titans, picking off his second pass of the year and returning a fumble for a touchdown. Tennessee only has four takeaways on the season, three of which have been by Byard.

That marked the first touchdown of Byard’s six-year career — giving him more touchdowns than games missed. The 28-year-old got his first start in Week 10 of his rookie season and has started every game since for the Titans. Sunday was the 76th consecutive time he was named in the starting lineup, and his 85th NFL game.

A third-round pick out of Middle Tennessee State in 2016, Byard has established himself as one of the top defensive backs in the NFL. He was named a first-team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl in 2017, after tying for the league lead with eight interceptions.

Before becoming one of the leaders of the Titans’ defense, though, Byard was a bored college kid in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the summer before his senior year at MTSU. One of Byard’s roommates who was also on the football team would read his Bible in their apartment and asked Byard if he wanted to take a spiritual journey with him. The result was an impromptu Bible study of sorts.

“We would sit there and read the Bible,” Byard said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in August. “Literally take out highlighters and everything. We were really going through the Bible, like, really studying it. … There would be three or four of us, sitting in the living room, having conversations, having deep talks.”

He eventually got baptized and continued to make his faith a priority when he entered the NFL. Byard began attending what Titans players called “Soul Food” on Fridays, which was a time for deep conversation and Bible study.

He believes it played a key role in keeping God at the center while he adjusted to life as a professional athlete.

“At the end of the day, you cannot walk this journey alone,” Byard said on the podcast. “You’re going to need guys that can hold you accountable, guys that you can really reach out to when it comes to things that you’re dealing with. And just having those open conversations kind of opened my mind up to a lot of different things because you may be dealing with something and not even realize the guy a couple lockers next to you could be dealing with the same exact things.”

Now a veteran and team captain, the Lithonia, Georgia, native is well aware of the ups and down that come with being in the NFL. He relies on his relationship with Christ to help keep everything in perspective.

“One thing that I’ve learned is that the only way that you’re able to stay evenly-keeled is leaning on Christ and understanding that football is not the end-all be-all,” Byard said. “Scoring touchdowns or catching interceptions or making big tackles … all that will eventually fade. But the thing that’s going to be there, that’s going to be constant, is your spiritual journey with Christ.”

Byard and the Titans return to the field Monday night when they host the Buffalo Bills at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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