GATESVILLE — Danny Byrd is in the midst of a memorable senior year.
First, the Gatesville senior helped the Hornets football team produce an undefeated regular season before embarking on the program’s deepest playoff run since winning a state championship in 2000.
Then, he transitioned into a threat for first-year head coach Thomas Winkler’s basketball team, pushing the Hornets to the verge of a second consecutive postseason appearance after opening the season with a 2-8 record.
On Wednesday afternoon, Byrd added another accomplishment to his growing list by committing to play football at Cisco College in a National Signing Day ceremony at Gatesville’s gymnasium. His only complaint is having to leave home.
“I’m kind of a Daddy’s boy,” Byrd said. “I don’t really want to leave my Dad, but I’m going to have to grow up some time, so I guess its time.”
Byrd has already done a lot of maturing, according to Gatesville head football coach Kyle Cooper, who took over the program when Byrd was in the sixth grade.
“It’s times like this when you really do feel like they are your kids,” Cooper said. “You spend a lot of time with them and just to get to see them make a major accomplishment like this in their life (is satisfying).”
Cisco coaches intend to use the 6-foot-3 Byrd as a tight end/halfback after he caught 43 passes for 487 yards and four touchdowns during the Hornets’ unblemished run to the Class 3A, Division II quarterfinals.
Regardless of how he is used, Byrd is happy to have his playing future secure and the nerve-wracking recruitment process behind him.
“It was a hard decision,” he said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it all (kept coming back) to Cisco. I liked them, and so I chose them.”
Byrd was one of three Gatesville athletes to ink letters of intent during the signing ceremony, joining Hornet golfers Lauren Davis and Katy Colson.
Davis, a transfer from Lampasas who was forced to miss almost the entirety of last season after becoming entangled in red tape, committed to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, while teammate Colson signed to play for McLennan Community College.
For Davis, signing the papers proved to be as difficult as shooting under par.
“My hands were shaking so bad,” Davis said. “I was telling myself, ‘I’m going to misspell my name. I’m going to misspell my name.’ And I did, so I had to go back and fix it.”
Colson did not experience any similar problems.
“I was excited that it was coming, just to get it over with, so I don’t have to worry about it, and I can focus on my team and what we are going to do this year,” Colson said.
While watching one of his players commit to play collegiately was bittersweet for Cooper, Gatesville head golf coach Guy Dean and his Hornets, who have qualified for the regional tournament every year since 2003, do not have time to be sentimental as they prepare to make a third consecutive state appearance.
“It is one less thing they have to worry about,” Dean said of his players being committed prior to the upcoming season. “I know that it is a big load off their shoulders. … Now, they don’t have to worry about impressing anybody, and they can just go out and play their game.”