Published Nov. 9, 2022
BY AVERY PALSHAW
After earning high school football honors of Second-Team All-State, twice First-Team All-League, First-Team All-County and First-Team All-State, Carmel High School three-sport star athlete and 2021 alumnus JT Byrne was undoubtedly destined for athletic success.
Now, the 6-foot-5-inch tight end is a redshirt freshman attending No. 24-ranked Oregon State University on a football scholarship, spending his days training and preparing for upcoming PAC-12 games. Despite being withheld from varsity play his freshman year at OSU to extend his eligibility, Byrne maintained a positive outlook and saw it as an opportunity to learn from his more experienced teammates and improve in skill.
“Since you’re not playing, you can focus more on the weight room,” the OSU sophomore explains. “You can focus more on getting in good shape, focus on school, and get your feet on the ground at a new place.”
The athlete’s routine begins with lifting weights in the morning, going to team meetings and then heading to practice. The night before a game, Byrne evaluates his filmed gameplay and attends meetings and a team dinner. On game day, the Beaver spends his morning at a team breakfast and strategizes with the 6-2 OSU team before setting foot on the field, where he’s already participated for special teams in seven of the Beavers’ eight games.
Along with the challenges of maintaining athletic excellence, Byrne also balances his academics as a major in business administration.
Because fewer than 2% of high school athletes are accepted to play at NCAA Division I schools, the competitive nature of college athletics lends itself to a more intense playing field.
“Everyone coming from high school was their team’s best player, and it made the speed of the game feel really fast at first,” Byrne says. “That was something that took a bit of adjusting.”
While Byrne has always had a passion for sports, playing basketball and baseball growing up, he had a natural talent for football when he began on varsity his freshman year at CHS. He went on to make 48 catches for 636 yards and six touchdowns as a junior, playing a tight end, wide receiver, quarterback, linebacker and defensive end throughout his high school career.
Yet what is expected of college football athletes is much more extreme than what is expected of high school athletes.
“He’s having to block 290-pound people on the line of scrimmage,” says CHS athletic director Golden Anderson, the athlete’s football coach of four years. “That’s a big jump from playing in the Shoe Game.”
Byrne’s former CHS coaches recall his unique competitive spirit and tremendous dedication to his athletics.
“Practice can be kind of drudgery, but he was always happy to be there, even when he probably didn’t feel like being there,” says Hans Schmidt, assistant coach of the CHS boys’ varsity basketball team.
Byrne excelled in basketball, earning All-State, First-Team All-League and multiple League MVPs during his high school career.
“Right from the get-go he was an impact player,” varsity head coach Kurt Grahl remarks. “When he came in as a freshman that year, he was MVP of the league, and his second year he was also MVP of the league.”
Despite not having won a Pac-12 championship since 2000, Byrne is optimistic about the Oregon State football team’s odds of reaching the championship this season.