Retired NFL RB, Super Bowl XXVI Champion, current Jaguars RB Coach, Earnest Byner Interview
Earnest Byner played college football at East Carolina University. He then entered the 1984 NFL Draft and was drafted in the tenth round. He played for the Browns for 7 years (84-88, 94-95), the Redskins for 5 years (89-93), and the Ravens for two years (96-97). He then worked in Player Personnel with the Ravens. Following that, he became the RB coach of the Redskins, then Titans, and Jaguars. He won Super Bowl XXVI with the Redskins. This interview was conducted before the 2011 NFL season when he was the Jacksonville Jaguars running back coach.
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Strauss : Do you have a way for fans to connect with you?
Byner : My twitter account is @EByner21…. I don’t use it much.
Strauss : If you could meet anyone, who would it be and why?
Byner : Abraham Lincoln…..I would like to feel the energy and spirit that made him who he was.
Strauss : What would you want to do if playing football had never worked out for you?
Byner : A coach. I always knew I wanted to coach.
Strauss : What was your high school football experience like?
Byner : It was good overall even though we lost most of our games. I had good coaches and good teammates that were good people.
Strauss : What was the transition like between high school and college?
Byner : When I went to college it at first it felt lonely because I was separated from all that was familiar. We were the only thing on campus so that felt weird as well. When I started playing football, I can remember feeling dwarfed when we were leaving the locker room for our first practice. It wasn’t a hard transition at all. The speed was about the same for me… so things progressed nicely.
Strauss : What is your favorite memory from East Carolina?
Byner : Coming back from Missouri to a parade for our football team. Competing against University of Florida State and Miami in 1983 and defeating North Carolina State at their place.
Strauss : Who was your best friend while you played football at ECU?
Byner : Bubba Bunn…Going to visit his family during spring break.
Strauss : What was your draft day experience like?
Byner : Looooonng. I was drafted the second day…Late! I never gave up hope though. The call is a blur. I was just glad it was over.
Strauss : What is your best memory from the Browns?
Byner : Always the people that I played with. Good guys! We played and worked hard and knew how to separate the two.
Strauss : From your view, what happened during “The Fumble?” When reflecting on it, what do you think of it?
Byner : The lead up to that play was the really exciting and fun part. All of the other plays in the game, the game before when we beat Indianapolis which contributed and provided the build-up. The fumble… the focus… the decider… my move… was one play in a long list of plays made and not made by me and my teammates. As you can see that play does not stand alone for me, although most highlights only show that play. It was a trap play. I had good relationship with my puller. The play got closed inside so I bounced it saw a alley and hit it. I saw one defender outside but it was a corner so I wasn’t concerned with him tackling me so I got ready to defend myself from the safety coming from the inside. I tucked the ball, felt a pull on my left hand, but kept moving forward while allowing my left arm to give with the pull so I could score. The ball came out.
Strauss : What is your favorite memory with the Redskins?
Byner : The NFC Championship game for me was more important and more dramatic than the big game because I had been close with the browns twice in the AFC Game. I was very emotional all day up to the game as well as playing. It was great!
Strauss : What was Super Bowl 26 like?
Byner : The game itself was not all I expected because of how I felt about the Championship Game. I knew we were going to win. But I can tell you this that first play I could not hear a thing and could feel the vibrations from all the noise. The passing play to me for the td was a basic flat route. I was the first read. I knew it was going to pop open based on the coverage. We got a pick which made me pop open. Mark threw a perfect ball located where I could catch it turn up and score.
Strauss : What was the Pro Bowl like?
Byner : The Pro Bowl was great within itself. It was confirmation and a crown regarding the year that we had as a team and how I played within that time.
Strauss : What is your favorite memory from playing with the Ravens?
Byner : Playing golf with Ozzie and Steve. Hosting a radio show. Being the Director of Player Development and working with the players and playing racquetball with Kevin Bryne.
Strauss : What is the funniest moment of your playing career?
Byner : Can’t think of one that is the funniest. My career was a treat filled with bunches of good times and a lot of life lessons.
Strauss : What do you want your playing career to be remembered for?
Byner : The type of player I was speaks for itself. I want it to be remembered for all the players that influenced me and who I tried to help along the way while making myself the best I could. I want it to speak for itself. Hard work, tough, fun and demanding.
Strauss : Which player has had the most impact on your coaching career?
Byner : Dino Hall… Even though we were competing for the same spot, he helped to learn the offense and gave me tips while I was a rookie.
Strauss : What was it like be the Director of Player Development on the Ravens?
Byner : Player development was fun. It allowed me to continue to be who I had become as a player. Mr. Modell was a mentor for me when I went from player to Player Development. He took the time to sit with me, warn me about the perils of going from player right into coaching and gave the opportunity to explore then come back to him with what I wanted to do. It was a treat to work him in that capacity.
Strauss : What was it like to get your first coaching job with the Redskins?
Byner : It was an honor to work for Coach Gibbs. I learned some things about how to and how not to deal with difficult players. It was somewhat of an awakening for me.
Strauss : Two seasons ago, you coached another east carolina running back, Chris Johnson… and helped coach him to rush for 2000 yards, how much impact did he have on your career?
Byner : It’s always good to be successful in what you do. Chris is a special player and was able to do something special. It speaks to those who know that I was a part of what he accomplished.
Strauss : What is it like to work for the Jaguars organization?
Byner : This has been an excellent place for me to grow. Jack has put together a good staff filled with good people.
Strauss : Who has had the most impact on your coaching career?
Byner : Marty Schottenheimer. Because he was a father figure to me. He was honest and projected a real caring for what we were and what he wanted us to be. I love him.
Strauss : What’s the story behind your nickname?
Byner : Tasmanian Devil. I was a fighter when I first got into the league. gave me a cheap shot I went after them. When someone new came to the team I had to check his toughness. When it was a game where the other team thought they were the bully I would set the tone. Crazy Huh?
Strauss : Do you have a foundation or charity that you support a lot?
Byner : Not right now… Stay tuned!
Strauss : If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?
Byner : Butter Pecan. Nutty, creamy and smooth.
Strauss : For someone aspiring to play or coach football in the NFL, do you have any advice for them?
Byner : Be you. Be genuine. Be caring. Show Love.
Strauss : Thank you so much for your time!
Byner : Thanks Max!
It’s always nice to know when the man is even better than the player. Much love from Cleveland Ernest!