Byron Hanspard

 

Position: Running Back

Teams:

  • Texas Tech University (1994-1996)
  • Atlanta Falcons (1997-1999)
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2000-2002)

Notables:

  • Rushed for over 2,000 yards as a junior at Texas Tech (1996)
  • Doak Walker Award winner (best RB in nation) (1996)
  • 6th in Heisman Trophy voting in 1996, including 15 first-place votes
  • Declared for the NFL Draft after his junior year
  • It was later discovered that he posted a 0.0 GPA during his junior season
  • 41st overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft (Round 2)
  • Drafted in the 2nd Round (41st overall) of the 1997 NFL Draft
  • Saw playing time in just 2 NFL seasons, starting only 4 games
  • An ordained Pentecostal minister

COLLEGE

Hanspard had a distinguished college career. He rushed for 764 yards as a freshman, 1,374 yards as a sophomore, and an incredible 2,084 yards as a junior. Hanspard and Iowa State’s Troy Davis were the only two players to rush for over 2,000 yards that year. His stellar junior season earned him the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s best running back. He also finished 6th in the 1996 Heisman Trophy race, garnering 15 first-place votes and finishing two spots ahead of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.

 (Doak Walker Award)

Hanspard owns several Texas Tech rushing records, including career rushing yards (4,219), single-season rushing yards (2,084), and single-game rushing yards (287). He also holds the record for most rushing yards per game in a season (189.5 in 1996), and for a career (127.8). Rushing records at Texas Tech seem pretty safe for now, as they are now known for their prolific passing attack.

He decided to leave school after his junior year and declare for the 1997 NFL Draft. Normally, a kid makes this decision because he wants to enter the draft while his stock is high, avoid the risk of injury in his senior season, and begin making the big bucks.  Hanspard had gave a different reason. According to an article in the New York Times, Hanspard, an ordained Pentecostal minister, said he left early school early because “the National Football League offered a bigger platform to spread his faith” and expand his ministry. When asked if playing on Sundays in the NFL would clash with his religion, the Times article quotes him as saying, ”If the Lord felt that it would hurt me a lot, he wouldn’t have told me to go to the NFL. I don’t have to go to church on Sunday to worship and praise the Lord.”

Honestly though, if Hanspard wanted a bigger platform to spread his faith and expand his ministry, it would have been better if he would have stayed in college and played his senior year as a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy rather than wallow in obscurity in the NFL. By the end of his junior year, however, Hanspard had no choice but to declare. His GPA for that year was 0.0. Following the news of Hanspard’s GPA, Texas Tech announced that since 1991, 76 athletes in 8 sports, including 46 football players, had competed when they should should have been ineligible. As a result, the school and the NCAA imposed sanctions on the athletics programs at fault, which included a 1997 postseason ban, a reduced number of scholarships, and limited recruiting privileges. Here’s a full list of the sanctions.

NFL

Hanspard was chosen in the 2nd round (41st overall) by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1997 NFL Draft. Primarily used as a kick-returner, he had 987 return yards as a rookie to go along with 335 rushing yards, including a 77-yard run against the Raiders. He missed the entire 1998 season with a knee injury before returning in 1999 and starting 4 games for the Falcons. He rushed for only 383 yards on the season and scored just one touchdown.

He was cut by the Falcons during training camp in 2000 and never played another NFL down, despite being on the Buccaneers roster from 2000-2002.

Here’s an article written by the Augusta (GA) Chronicle before Hanspard’s rookie season, claiming he could be the next great Falcon running back. Well, so much for that.

 

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One Response to “Byron Hanspard”

  1. [...] Bam won the 1993 Doak Walker Award after rushing for 1,752 yards for Texas Tech. He beat out San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk for the award. Bam’s 1,752 yards broke a Southwest Conference record for single season rushing yards previously held by Earl Campbell, and was the second highest mark in the nation that year. Bam, who’s real name is Byron, was one of two Byron’s from Texas Tech to win the Doak Walker Award in a span of 4 years. The other? Byron Hanspard, who we featured on this site earlier this month. [...]

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