CARMEL – Oregon State backup tight end J.T. Byrne has entered the NCAA transfer portal after two years with the football program, which finished 17th in the nation this past season.
The former Carmel High three-sport star just concluded his redshirt freshman season for the Beavers, playing primarily on special teams and spot situations on offense.
“I have been so blessed to be a part of a program with phenomenal coaches and teammates,” Byrne said. “Sometimes you have to take a risk. There are times you have to take a chance on yourself. I have full belief in myself.”
The Herald’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2021, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Bryne saw his time on the field decrease over the course of his first full college season and will go into next fall still searching for his first college reception.
“The most important thing for us as a family is it was the right thing for J.T.,” said Byrne’s father Tom. “Regardless of his decision, we wanted him to know that he has our full support.”
The decision came as a complete surprise to his off-season sprint/conditioning coach Nick Cunningham, who had talked to him after the season last month.
“He talked about how important this off-season was going to be for him,” Cunningham recalled. “I’m guessing he has something in the works. J.T. makes calculated decisions.”
Cunningham, who is the Monterey Peninsula College track and field coach and a three-time Olympic bobsledder, found out after Byrne called him Wednesday night.
“I have access to the portal and he wanted to know if his name was in there,” Cunningham said. “I believe he has to know or feels the grass is greener, otherwise he doesn’t make this decision and gives up a scholarship.”
Byrne, who was The Herald’s co-Player of the Year in basketball in 2020 and the county leader in home runs in 2021, suited up for all 13 games this past season for the Beavers, who finished 10-3, and were ranked as high 15th in the nation.
During a Week 2 battle at Fresno State, the 20-year-old had a critical block late in the game on the goal line that enabled teammate Jack Colletto to score the game-winning touchdown.
“I have had an amazing experience at Oregon State, and I cannot thank my coaches, teammates and the Beaver community enough for the great time I had in Corvallis,” Byrne added. “I’ve learned so much in becoming the man that I am.”
While Byrne could not elaborate immediately on his future, it doesn’t sound like he will be without a team for long.
“It’s been a hectic morning,” Byrne said. “The plan is to be at a college in the spring, learning a new system and helping contribute as quickly as a can. I’m going to be a leader, an advocate and a presence on the fieBeforeor to signing with Oregon State in 2020, Byrne had solid offers for 20 other colleges across the country.
Thoughts of switching sports is likely not on the horizon for Bryne, who did drop in 42 points in a title game last winter playing intramural basketball with members of the Oregon State scout basketball team.
“As much as I love baseball and basketball, I’m a realist,” Byrne said. “Being out for two years and returning to another sport is not realistic. My passion is college football. I love the atmosphere. I’m all in.”
During his senior season at Carmel, Bryne did hit eight homers and drove in 25 runs in 27 games for the Padres, while hitting over .400, drawing interest from major league scouts.
“He still loves basketball and baseball,” said Byrne’s dad Tom, a former quarterback at Notre Dame. “But he’ll tell you his plan is to continue to play football in college.”
Cunnindoes not doubtdoubt that Byrne is a Division I caliber player, having watched him grow and mature over the past three seasons he’s worked with him.
“The question is where is the best opportunity to showcase his talents,” Cunningham said. “He knows what’s best for him. He’s living it every day. He sees the big picture.”
Likely to be classified as a junior academically when he enrolls at a college this spring, Byrne — who is returning Saturday to Corvallis to pick up his belongings — sports a 3.6-grade point average.
“He doesn’t define himself as just a football player,” said Byrne’s father. “He wants to make sure he’s getting the entire experience. There are few days that go by that I’m not humbled by his maturity and how he approaches life.”