Browns’ and Redskins’ great Earnest Byner joined me today to talk “Concussion,” Johnny Football in a wig, ND’s Jaylon Smith and life after the NFL:
HH: I’ve got to tell you, there are days when everything comes together. And today is one of those days where there are four football stories. There’s the movie, Concussion. There is the terrible injury to Jalen Smith, the Notre Dame linebacker. He’s had to have reconstructive knee surgery. There is the Cleveland Browns in utter disarray hiring Paul Depodesta from the Mets to come in from baseball and straighten them out. Johnny Football is caught in Las Vegas in a blond wig, and everything comes together in my favorite Christmas present, which arrived unannounced at my post office box from one of my heroes, Ernest Byner, who is for 14 years one of the great running backs of my lifetime in the NFL. And Ernest Byner did me the great honor of sending me a copy of Everybody Fumbles, and I immediately emailed him, and I said Ernest Byner, come on the Hugh Hewitt Show, and he said yes. Ernest Byner, welcome, it’s great to talk to you.
EB: Oh, thanks for having me, man. Gosh almighty, how does this all come together, though? Johnny Football in a wig? No, you’ve got to be kidding me now.
HH: No, there are days when a guest just shows up, and it’s a divine appointment, because I was reading Everybody Fumbles, and by the way, it’s a terrific book. I don’t know when you wrote it, but it made me laugh, and I want to give it to every young man I know out there who runs into tough stuff. But let’s start at the beginning.
HH: I want to start with Concussion.
HH: Because I saw the movie two nights ago after I had gotten Everybody Fumbles, and I thought to myself, now Ernest Byner has written this terrific book, had 14 years of running.
HH: No, what do you think of that movie? And what do you think of that controversy?
EB: Well, I think the movie is really great. I went to see it. It does break out some things that we didn’t know as players during the time, because you know, I actually played in a few games. I had a concussion. I had concussions and also went back in the game and continued to play, and I had a number, I can’t tell you how many dings of when my bell was rung in practice and in games. And you know, getting a view of Concussion really helped me to understand some of the issues that I’m dealing with today, that I started dealing with shortly after I finished playing the game. But the issues are continually popping up, for different reasons.
HH: Now expand on that, because you played 14 years.
HH: You’ve got a Super Bowl ring. You gained 8,000-plus yards, so I don’t know how many times you got hit hard. It’s got to be 15-20,000 hard hits. How does it impact your life on a daily basis?
EB: Well, it just did, the different issues come up at different times. My sleep patterns are terrible. I don’t sleep. I sleep very intermittently, and that’s because of some of the mind stuff. But also, because of some of the other injuries that I had over my career. The concussions come up with my different emotions that come about with me. My short temperedness, my irritability, my forgetfulness, I mean, it’s just so many different ways that it pops up, and it takes me probably hours to do things that it generally would take someone 15-20 minutes to do. And the stuff that I know, sometimes my stuttering, my speech is not good. Tonight, I’m good. I’m rolling tonight.
HH: You are rolling.
EB: I’m rolling tonight.
HH: It’s all a surprise to me.
EB: There are times where I can’t hardly get words out. You know, little stuff that I know that I know, that I know that I should know, I don’t know. I mean, just little math problem, I mean, it’s just so many things.
HH: It’s interesting, Ernest Byner, because you know, I’m 59, so I’m older than you.
HH: And that happens to me anyway, and I didn’t play a down of even high school football. Actually, I did, but it didn’t count, because I didn’t get in. But let me ask you about this. Knowing all you know, would you do it again?
EB: I love the game.
EB: I love the game, Hugh. I’d play again.
HH: See, well, you had such a career.
EB: The safety, and the other aspects that were so good for me….
HH: Now I want you to talk to a young man like, I hope, we’re going to post this interview.
HH: And I hope Jalen Smith wakes up from his surgery, and this is the story that breaks your heart. He was going to be a top five.
HH: You were drafted in the tenth round, right?
EB: Yeah, right.
HH: And you’ve become a superstar. He has got everything in front of him, and he gets injured. What would you say to that young man when he wakes up tomorrow and you know, his life is different?
EB: The first thing I would say is that if you have that dream, keep that dream. One of the other things that I would give to him is to make sure that you keep the focus on what you desire, not what you have gone through. Everything, and the other thing that I would tell him is everything that you have gone through up to this point has prepared you to move forward. So when you wake up tomorrow morning, I’m telling you right now, when you wake up tomorrow morning, you get ready to go be what you desire to be, and have that in mind every day that you go through rehab, every day that you’re going through healing. Have what you desire in your mind.
HH: You know, the same thing happened to Brian Hoyer when he was having that terrific year three years ago…
HH: …and then he went down, and my heart just broke for him…
HH: …because he finally had his shot, and how he’s back in the playoffs making a run.
EB: Yeah, yeah.
HH: I don’t know if he’s going to get a ring like you did, but you can come back.
HH: Second question, Johnny Football, you know, I’m on WHK, 1420 in Cleveland. I’m on 1260 WRC in Washington, D.C. I’m on in Vegas. I’m all over. I don’t know where he is today. What’s your advice to that young man, Ernest Byner? You’re the consummate football professional.
EB: Well, the thing that I would say to Johnny, and I don’t know if it would matter, is that learn to appreciate the smaller things in life, the things that really make a difference. The opportunity that you have to influence young kids and other guys that are around you, the opportunity that you have at this point, will not be there long. So you’ve got to, you’ve got to go through, you’ve got to get through this window while it’s open. Eventually, that will close, and you will be missing out on something very special.
HH: Well said again. Now Ernest Byner, I’m going to go all Cleveland on you for a moment, and my, the rest of my national audience just has to appreciate this. You are a Cleveland legend. Are the Browns fans the best fans in the world? I put you on the spot, because I’ve got Redskins fans listening as well.
EB: Well, you know, you know the Redskins fans, they were great to me. The most loyal fans have been, and they have shown this through Facebook, Twitter, the number of appearances that I have done for the Browns, for the Browns backers, has been way more than any other team. I have not had the opportunity to be engaged with fans after my career like I’ve had with the Browns fans.
HH: Well, you just ratified. Now tell us, you’ve been a coach for so long, many years after you retired from playing. You’ve coached a number of different teams. But you’re a young man. So what do you do with the next 25 to 40 years that Ernest Byner has? You’ve got Everybody Fumbles. I put your website up, by the way. It’s www.ernestbyner21.com, America.
EB: Okay, okay.
HH: What are you going to do?
EB: Well, it just depends. I’m doing a lot of praying right now for direction. I’m asking God to direct my path, asking the Spirit to come in and make it clear for me as far as what He desires. I know what I desire. I desire to help people. I desire to keep teaching. I desire to go out and speak when people, as a matter of fact, I got a couple of speaking engagements this off season, so I want to share and I want to teach as much as I can about the different levels of winning, and the different ways that you can win in the game, athletically, but also in life.
HH: Well, I love your book, because it obviously refers to the infamous fumble, Everybody Fumbles.
HH: And I love that you advertise that.
HH: And you just say everybody fumbles.
HH: And I think that takes courage, and it must make for a great speech. But I, did you hesitate to name your book that?
EB: No, not at all. Not at all, because you know, the realities of it is everybody does make mistakes on some level, not at the level that I made, that I fumbled on. It’s not at that same level, but in somebody’s life, there is a play or a situation, I say play, but there is a situation that happens that’s very significant to them, and it matters, and it matters how they come out of that. It matters to me how people use the energy that they’re given, the failure or success. It matters to me how they transfer that into moving forward.
HH: And then you come back and you win the Super Bowl.
HH: That’s the message, isn’t it?
EB: Absolutely. And that’s the blessing. Now you know, obviously, you know, everybody’s not going to come out and be a champion, but they can be a champion in their life on whatever level that they want to be a champion on. But I did have the opportunity to go to another team, another team that really kind of gave me a little bit, you know, to me, you know, we talk about redemption, but you know, it’s really just living out the life that you’re blessed to live. And I was blessed enough to be on the team that had a lot of good people, a good coach, and gave me an opportunity to kind of almost start over again and refresh myself.
HH: Well, Ernest Byner, you are a generous man. Thank you for sending me your book and for making time for me today. And I would say to anyone out there who has any kind of a need for an inspirational speaker, go to www.ernestbyner21.com, and look up this man and get him to come to your town, because this is a real uplift. And Ernest, have a great 2016, my friend.
EB: You, too, Hugh, and tell Steve we did get together, because he said y’all, you know, Steve Forest, who’s with CNN…
EB: …and people don’t know that, but tell him I said hello, and thanks for making the connection between you and I.
HH: I’m so happy about that. He gives me such grief about the Browns, but now I owe him.
EB: (laughing) He told me.
HH: Ernest Byner, a pleasure, what an All-Pro. Great to talk to you. Everybody Fumbles is linked over at Hughhewitt.com, America.
End of interview.