When linebacker Richard McBryde got the call that he was ready to move to SMU, he was teaching and working as a football coach at his old high school in Troy, Ala.
Auburn pushed McBryde into a medical retirement after suffering a herniated disk in his neck before the 2018 season. But even as he left The Plains, underwent neck surgery and started cutting grass to make ends meet, McBryde never lost sight of his goal.
“I wasn’t really stressing because I put it in God’s hands,” McBryde said. “I was just emailing schools and worked for I think two months.”
By the time McBryde was fully cleared by SMU’s doctors, it was the last week of fall camp. Plus, he was coming in to compete with all-conference linebacker Richard Moore at the MIKE position. He didn’t get many practice reps. There was no guarantee he would even be ready to see the field much.
But before the second game against North Texas, Kane ran reps with McBryde in practice to see what he had to offer. The early signs were positive.
“He had been around the defense for less than a month,” SMU defensive coordinator Kevin Kane said. “We were just hoping for him to go out there and have some general understanding of what we were trying to get accomplished, then just go out there and make plays.”
But when Moore suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3, Kane realized he had to find a way to get McBryde up to speed. He slotted the transfer into the starting lineup for the biggest nonconference matchup of the season against bitter Big 12 rival TCU.
“I can say that I didn’t fully pick up the playbook until January, when the season was over,” McBryde said. “I’m more relaxed with it now. During the season, I was just playing.”
If McBryde didn’t know the playbook, he sure did a good job hiding it. In his 10 starts after Moore’s injury alone, McBryde exploded for 88 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss. In the biggest game of the year against Memphis, he posted 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack.
McBryde’s breakout was critical for the Mustangs, as he finished the season as the team leader in tackles. Perhaps just as big, McBryde was granted a sixth year of eligibility in February. Getting a second year in Dallas changes the complexion of the defense – and allows McBryde to earn his master’s degree.
“To have some consistency somewhere along the defense is huge,” Kane said. “And now that he’s got a better understanding of the defense and more knowledge, he’s going to be so much better.”
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