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When former Green Bay Packers tight end Brandon Bostick botched an onside kick return in the NFC Championship game — one that helped cost his team a trip to the Super Bowl — Earnest Byner was watching.
After hearing Bostick’s postgame interview, a series of regrets and apologies, Byner knew what he had to do.
“I could understand that feeling,” Byner, who played five seasons with the Redskins, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It took about six months for me to feel how he felt just a day after the game. I felt like I had to speak to him.”
A week after the game, Byner was on the phone with Bostick, who had previously told the press he was at a new low point in his life.
“When we talk he listens very intently,” said Byner, who found Bostick’s contact through a Packers official. “But I need to meet him to feel his spirit. We’re going to go about making this connection. We might do some training. I want to get into his mind a bit so I can help him best.”
Byner, who recently released a new book, “Everybody Fumbles,” is the right man for the job.
As a running back for the Browns in the 1988 AFC Championship game, Byner had the chance to score a touchdown and tie the game against the Broncos. As he raced for the goal line, he was stripped of the ball at the two-yard line allowing Denver to recover, ending Cleveland’s dreams of heading to the Super Bowl.
Byner said it was his move to Washington that helped him recover and forgive himself the most.
“That play is just part of my legacy,” Byner told The Redskins Blog last month. “The things that gave me comfort was the spiritual connection that I got when I came to Washington, through Coach Gibbs, Tim Johnson, Darrell Green…When I got that spiritual connection I was able to forgive myself for that but still be able to use that energy to move forward.”
Understanding the pain and long recovery process from one play has given Byner an empathy he knows will always be valuable, especially when it pertains to helping players who are trying to heal the same kinds of mental scars.
“Having to go through the consistent lashing that I took, regarding that, it just made me want to help people that have made, not even as drastic a mistake as that was,” Byner said. “In life, we all make these mistakes. We all have to deal with learning from the mistakes. We all have to do that…By nature, I’m a teacher. This is another way of teaching but also giving people answers for dealing with different aspects of life.”
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