May 1, 2006
LAKE FOREST, Ill. - The Chicago Bears announced today that former Ohio cornerback Dion Byrum (Matthews, N.C.) has signed a free agent contract with the team. Byrum will report to the squad's rookie mini-camp on Thursday.
"The head coach (Lovie Smith) called and wanted me to come in," Byrum said. "I think I have a good chance of making the team. They run the same defense we did (at Ohio), so I know I can go in do something positive."
The Bears were one of several teams that spoke with Byrum leading up to this past weekend's NFL Draft. Smith was in Athens on April 22 to observe one of Byrum's workouts.
Byrum finished his collegiate career in 2005 by earning three different All-American honors. He was named to the AFCA All-America Team, the Sports Illustrated All-America Second Team and the Associated Press All-America Second Team. Byrum was the first Bobcat to be named to an All-America squad since punter Dave Zastudil in 2001. He was the first Ohio offensive or defensive player to be named to an All-America team since Cleve Bryant, Todd Snyder and Ken Carmon in 1968.
Byrum tied for the MAC lead, and tied for second nationally, with six interceptions in his final season. He ran back two of those interceptions for touchdowns, and led the nation with three total defensive touchdowns, including a fumble return against Northwestern. He also caught a touchdown pass in the Bobcats' win at Buffalo.
Byrum was one of 12 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented annually to the nation's most outstanding defensive back. He received several national player of the week honors after his performance in the Bobcats' overtime win against Pittsburgh in which he had two interception returns for touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime. Byrum was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week, the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week, the USA Today National Player of the Week and College Sports Report's I-A Performer of the Week. He was also a midseason All-America selection by Sports Illustrated.
In addition to his interceptions, Byrum finished tied for third in the league with 1.09 passes defended per game. He had 45 tackles in his final season, eighth on the Bobcats.