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'He Has the Strength'
Peter King
December 14, 1992
Dennis Byrd of the Jets lies partially paralyzed in a New York hospital, fighting the odds—as he has so often helped others to do
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December 14, 1992

'he Has The Strength'

Dennis Byrd of the Jets lies partially paralyzed in a New York hospital, fighting the odds—as he has so often helped others to do

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"Two hundred!" Dennis said.

No one else made a bid.

"Two fifty!" Dennis said.

"Sold!" the auctioneer said, and Stephen lit up like a Christmas tree.

Many times a representative of Survivors of the Shield, a New York charity for families of police officers killed or seriously hurt in action, has called Miller asking for a player to have dinner with the family or the child of a fallen officer. Byrd went five times in the last year.

When the Helen Keller Services for the Blind took a group of physically impaired adults to visit the Jet training camp last summer, a few of the players were uncomfortable with the visitors, some of whom had little control over their bodies. But after practice Byrd waded into the group and found a blind woman who was sitting on the grass because she had no use of her legs. Byrd sat beside her, took her hand and explained who he was, what position he played and what his job was like. When she touched his helmet and seemed interested in it, Byrd put it on her head. She screamed. "I thought she was scared," Miller says, "but she was happy." She threw her arms around Byrd, and he threw his arms around her, and the people who saw it say their hug lasted for five minutes.

Also last summer, Byrd reported late to a defensive team film session because he wouldn't leave the field until he had fulfilled every request for his autograph, which took 45 minutes. "The day I don't have time to sign an autograph for a kid," he said, "is the day I get out of football."

The only time Byrd was unable to oblige a Miller request to help a charity was when he had promised his two-year-old daughter, Ashtin, that he would take her to the Ice Capades.

All of this is just a sampling of why the phone kept ringing in Miller's office. "What he's given to the community is coming back tenfold," Miller says.

A personal note from Miller, 24, a bachelor who joined the Jet front office in June 1991: Last year he was preparing to spend his first Christmas away from his family in Pittsburgh. "Dennis found out about it Christmas morning," Miller says, "and he basically threatened me—I had to spend Christmas with him and his family. I was there for five hours. And he gave me a puzzle and a scarf, both brand-new and wrapped. How did he do that? He didn't even know about this till Christmas morning, and he had two gifts for me."

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