LOWELL — On one of his numerous tackles for loss Friday night at Lowell, Bishop Byrd stalked toward nowhere in particular, uppercut the air and screamed mightily as he flexed.
The solo stop, which brought up a Lowell fourth down in the second quarter of a 3-0 game at the time, was worth the celebration.
The celebration was worth so much because of what came before it. From the 30-minute daily commute from South Holland for four years to the rededication to weights and body transformation from this past offseason, Byrd is the Bishop blessing Andrean, a school named after a bishop, with stellar two-way play on the football field.
“Football is where I really just find myself with the passion of the game and the emotions of the game,” Byrd said. “When I get out on the field I can just express myself and be free.”
Byrd ran free often in the Lowell backfield Friday night, dominating from the nose guard position. He also occasionally moved to defensive end when the rotation called for it as Andrean held Lowell to 103 total yards in a 13-0 Northwest Crossroads Conference victory.
The 59ers (5-3, 3-1) last shut out Lowell (5-3, 3-1) in 2006.
Byrd had three big tackles for loss and was usually in the crowd for other big tackles during a very physical game that began just after some rain with the temperature at 43 degrees.
“I was just trying to create penetration,” Byrd said. “I wanted to get the center to come at me so I could use my hands to get around him.”
The 5-foot-11, 217-pound two-way lineman muscled up this offseason and earned a starting job on defense for the first time in his career.
“Being a small person I knew I couldn’t be small and weak, so I had to transform my body to be a better player for the team,” Byrd said. “My motivation was to try to be the best player on the team.”
Byrd was the team’s starting center throughout his junior season but didn’t play much defense. Friday he played right guard in place of a concussed teammate after starting the first seven games at left guard.
Teammate Ryan Walsh ran for 117 yards and a touchdown and had 49 total yards on three catches.
“He played great,” Andrean coach Chris Skinner said of Byrd. “He really worked to get himself in shape to play both ways for us, and that was a physical game. For him to be as disruptive as he was on defense and as physical as he was, it was an impressive night for sure.”
Two older siblings graduated from Thornwood, but Byrd chose Andrean over pricier Chicago private schools. He took the entrance exam at Marian Catholic but had his heart set on Andrean. It helps that his mother works at NiSource in Merrillville and drives him to school on her way to work every day.
“The Andrean community and family and their beliefs and tradition, it’s essential, very important,” Byrd said. “I’ve been playing football my whole life, but I just needed that little spark to transform and start to take control and realize what I can do and my potential.”