FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2005: Byrnes Returns With Something To Prove
The Wide Receivers
But you can call him Rodney Byrnes.
The senior wide receiver out of Indianapolis is back in the offensive mix after being sidelined in 2004 due to academic reasons. With junior Corey Mazza returning at receiver, Harvard’s attack could once again boast a one-two punch reminiscent of the pairing of Byrnes and Carl Morris ’03.
“He’s a tough, seasoned veteran and a big-play guy,” says Crimson coach Tim Murphy. “I think he’s ready.”
A versatile player, Byrnes is a threat to reach the endzone in various ways. The former Cardinal Ritter High standout tailback has not only caught several touchdown passes and rushed for scores, but he has also returned a kickoff for a touchdown and thrown a pass to the endzone as well.
In 2005, the senior will add punt return duties to his resume while further honing his talents at wide receiver. But Byrnes is itching to test his arm once again.
“I’m one-for-one so far in throwing for touchdowns,” Byrnes says. “Hopefully Coach Murph can work it in there and I can throw a touchdown—and maybe even get a couple of carries.”
The biggest question mark for Byrnes is his health. He was limited by injuries his sophomore and junior years, and a wounded Byrnes could leave Harvard’s offense with only one experienced receiver.
“We need him to stay healthy,” Murphy says. “We need a healthy, mentally tough, motivated Rodney to reach our goals.”
Fortunately for the Crimson, Byrnes insists that he’s never felt better, with the year off having allowed him to recuperate and heal. In the nationally televised 2005 Spring Crimson-White Game scrimmage, he showed what he was capable of when free from injury, hauling in four catches for a team-high 94 yards and tallying a touchdown.
“Every year, I’ve positioned myself to do well, but injuries have taken over,” Byrnes says. “So my number-one goal right now is to stay healthy, contributing however I can.”
Byrnes also notes that his time away from the team allowed him to travel the country and forced him to face real life—experiences that he says have made him more mature and given him a different perspective on football.
With this additional knowledge comes additional responsibility, and Byrnes is committed to being a role model for the younger players on the squad.
“I think I started playing football when [the freshmen] were two years old,” Byrnes says. “You gotta go out there and you gotta teach with words and actions now, because a lot of young guys look up to you now.”
The return of Byrnes comes at an opportune time for Harvard. The Crimson is technically an underdog, ranked second in a preseason Ivy League poll behind Penn despite having obliterated the Quakers and gone 10-0 en route to an Ancient Eight title last season. With the graduation of wide receiver Brian Edwards ’05, Harvard will need Byrnes to be a consistent threat to Ivy defenses.
But, experienced and more mature, Byrnes has learned to avoid the mistake of looking too far ahead. The league season is still a week away, and he’s less worried about Penn and more concerned with the Crusaders.
“Right now, I’m looking forward to playing Holy Cross,” Byrnes says.
—Staff writer Karan Lodha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.