'I know she's proud of me': Tennessee Titans' Kevin Byard opens up about loss of mother

Ben Arthur
Nashville Tennessean

Tennessee Titans All-Pro safety Kevin Byard acknowledged Wednesday that he still feels shock over the loss of his mother, Artina Stanley, during the offseason. 

Byard left mandatory practices early last month to be with Stanley, who Byard said passed away the following week.

The star safety opened up about his emotions after the first day of training camp Wednesday, saying he’s trying to approach every day with gratitude. 

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“Some days are good, some days are tough,” Byard said. “But at the end of the day, I feel like what I’ve learned throughout this process is that you really never know. This thing came out from left field. Just trying to wake up every single morning with gratitude – gratitude that I have another day to come in this building and be around the guys. My routine has kind of helped me. I wouldn’t say keep my mind off of it – during idle times is when it’s really tough – but I have a great circle around me that has really kept me up. I’ve had a lot of people reach out – hundreds of people reach out – to me and just try to keep me up."

"You never know when it will be your day," Byard continued. "You never know when an injury may end everything or your life, period. It’s crazy because I feel like everyone who’s been through these situations will always tell you, ‘really love on your loved ones. Make sure you’re calling people every day to tell them you love them,' and that’s just something I’m trying to preach and do for myself. Call my family. Check on my siblings. But like I said, it’s definitely been tough just being vulnerable, but I feel like I’m in a good head space today, or just period, but it could be different (Thursday), honestly.”

Byard said Stanley meant “everything” to him.

When Byard’s parents divorced at 14, he moved from his native Philadelphia to Atlanta with his mother and six siblings. 

"Just her work ethic every single day," Byard said. "Raising seven kids, (mostly) on her own, is tough for anyone, especially my mom. But she just took it in stride with the utmost character and everything and that’s how I learned. Who I am today is because of her and I owe everything to her.”

Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard (31) spends time with his daughter Eliana after a training camp practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

“One thing I understand too – just thinking spiritually – my mom is with me every single day," he continued. "It might sound weird, but I talk to my mom a lot and I can just hear her voice pretty much say, ‘just keep your foot on the gas.’ That’s what I’m going to keep doing every single day.”

Byard added that he’s going to dedicate each day to Stanley. 

"Dedicate this year (to her) because the life I’ve been able to build for myself and my family is the life that she wanted and the life that she wanted for herself," he said. "So I have to keep that in mind every single day because I know my mom was proud of me. ... Proud of her kids. All her kids are being successful and doing their own thing."

"That’s something that I can take on for the rest of my life: that my mom was proud of me and that’s obviously helped me throughout this whole process.”

Ben Arthur covers the Tennessee Titans for The USA TODAY Network. Contact him at barthur@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @benyarthur.