There’s no extra space in Sam Byers’ calendar over the next few months.
He’ll attend rookie mini-camp with the Atlanta Falcons next week. On May 24 he’ll graduate from the Air Force Academy. His wedding to childhood sweetheart Erika Daniels is slated for July 1. At the end of July he’ll report to Hill Air Force Base in Utah for his first assignment as an acquisitions officer.
In the gaps, he’ll learn a new football position, potentially sign a contract, attend training camp while figuring out what the Air Force will allow him to do in that regard.
Oh, and he needs to gain weight. A lot of weight.
“It’s going to be very interesting,” Byers said Friday.
The Falcons are bringing Byers in as an offensive lineman, a position he’s never played and that would require some additional size. The 6-foot-5 Seattle native played in the Arizona Bowl at 295 pounds, but dropped to 270 in recent months to complete academy fitness tests. He’s now up to around 285, but knows he’ll need to be well over 300 to compete at a spot he’ll have to learn on the fly.
“I don’t think I can ever really get comfortable with it until I get live bullets, and it’s going to be very interesting getting those live reps with professions on my first day at o-line,” Byers said. “But I’m going to give it my best shot and we’ll see what happens.”
Byers has sought counsel from Ben Garland, an Air Force grad currently with the Falcons. Garland also made the transition from college defensive lineman to NFL offensive lineman and is now a rarity in that he plays on both sides of the line.
Garland also served on active duty before landing in the NFL, so he’ll be a valuable reference in that regard as well.
Garland said the Falcons showed interest in him after pro day at the academy, and he attended an area workout held by the Seattle Seahawks on invitation.
He contacted Atlanta on Saturday when he learned Air Force would no longer allow graduates to pursue professional sports before serving two years, but the team still wanted him to come in next week for a look.
What comes next, besides his busy schedule, remains entirely unknown.
“If they have interest in me the next couple days, best-case scenario is I steal a free agent shot and sign some sort of contract,” Byers said “But I’m going to have to be working very closely with the administration at the academy and feel how I’m going to contribute to this team with the policy change.”
The weight is the other issue. Fitness tests continue on active duty, and Byers said he’ll just have to work with his base commanders and see how he handles the extra pounds should he sign a deal with the Falcons.
“I’m pretty confident that even at 300, my athletic ability can at least pass the Air Force fitness standards,” he said. “I passed it at 270, but I can only imagine that it’s going to be a lot harder at 300 pounds should this work out. I’m just going to work out and I’ll take those as they come.”