1965 FOOTBALL INDUCTEE
WALTER H. BYRD, SR.
As a youngster, Walt Byrd was always at the head of his class when it was it came to athletics. So it wasn’t surprising that he was a dominant player at the high school and collegiate levels. Old timers extol the achievements of this spunky 5’8″, 155-pound halfback during a three-year career at Fresno State first coached by Leo Harris and later Jimmy “Rabbit” Bradshaw. He also played basketball and baseball for the Bulldogs under coach Stan Borleske, but it was on the gridiron that he sparkled. Byrd justified Coach Leo Harris’ confidence in starting the Sophomore at left halfback in the 1934 opener against San Francisco State. In the first quarter, Byrd sprinted seventy-five yards on a reverse for a touchdown in a 33-6 rout of San Francisco State. Long breakaway runs became a Byrd trademark that season. After the 7-2-1 season and a tie for the Far Western Conference championship, it was announced that Byrd had tied Stanford’s great All-American Bobby Grayson for West Coast scoring honors. The following year, Byrd had another big season in leading the 6-3 Bulldogs to a FWC championship.
After graduating from Fresno State in 1940 where he twice was named Honorable Mention on the All-American team, he became head football coach at Roosevelt High School in 1941. His Rough Riders won the valley championship in his first year which included a 14-0 victory over Erwin Ginsburg’s Fresno High Warriors. It was not only Roosevelt’s first win ever over Fresno High, but it also marked the first time in history that the Rough Riders had scored on their crosstown rivals. Byrd was a star running back at Fresno High School during his prep days. The benchmark victory in 1941 started several years of Roosevelt’s domination of the Warriors. Byrd and Ginsberg were both in the military during World War II. They were discharged in 1946 and the “Big-Little Game,” as the Fresno High-Roosevelt battle was called, continued until Ginsberg retired in 1956. Byrd continued to coach another three years and then became athletic director at Roosevelt until 1958 when he was named director of physical education and recreation for the Fresno City Schools.