Jeff Byers Class of '07
The Whole Nine Yards
Jeff Byers ’07, MBA ’09 came to USC for the football but got so much more. When the offensive lineman was drafted into the NFL in April, he took with him a master’s degree in business administration from the USC Marshall School of Business.
Byers hadn’t planned it that way. “In my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d come out of here with my MBA,” he says.
One of the jewels of former USC football coach Pete Carroll’s 2004 recruiting class, a five-star player from Loveland, Colo., Byers came on a full scholarship. Football had been his life since he first strapped on a helmet in youth leagues. But that would change suddenly.
Byers started the final four regular season games of his freshman season, helping USC to its second consecutive national title. He was in line to be the full-time starter as a sophomore but ended up undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage in his right hip during the offseason, forcing him to redshirt. He recuperated and appeared ready to reclaim his starting position in 2006, but only lasted one game before injuring his back in practice. Sidelined for the second season in a row, Byers believed that his future in football was in doubt. So he turned his attention to academics.
“The truth is, when you lose something that you really love, you’ve got to find something to fill that void,” Byers says. “I dug into the books and tried to study more, tried to forget what I was missing on the field by just working hard at school and taking more classes.”
“Jeff has been a great addition to the school,” says USC Marshall School dean James G. Ellis. “He blends right in, which is hard to do for someone his size - 6 foot, 3 and 290 pounds.”
After completing his bachelor’s in business administration in three and a half years with a 3.27 GPA, Byers went on to the master’s program. He made the 2009 National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society and twice was named to the Pac-10 All-Academic team. Byers also was selected as a semifinalist for the 2009 William V. Campbell Trophy, presented by the National Football Foundation to the nation’s top scholar-athlete.
When his health finally allowed him to give football another try, Byers jumped back in. He started all 13 games in 2007, and earned All-Pac-10 second-team honors for his play in 2008. Due to his two missed seasons, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and entered the 2009 season named to pre-season all-American teams by ESPN and CBS Sports.
His business training has not gone to waste. Byers was elected offensive captain by his teammates two years in a row, a leadership position for which his USC Marshall School experience prepared him.
“I think there are a lot of things you learn on the football field and in the classroom that relate to each other,” Byers says. “I’ve taken a couple leadership classes and group-dynamic classes that helped me understand where guys are coming from.”
In his academic life, he discovered a love for the investment side of business after taking a class called “Money and Capital Markets.” He loaded up on investment classes, and thinks it could lead to a career as a portfolio manager or investment banker. Eventually.
First, Byers has his eyes set on another career. But whatever happens - whether his NFL career ends this year, in five years or 15 years - he’ll be well prepared for the next stage of his life.