When East Bay coach Frank LaRosa first met Brandon Byrd in the gym at school, he asked the sophomore if he could dunk a basketball.
So Byrd took a ball, passed it to himself off the glass and slammed it through the rim with one hand.
Yeah, he can dunk.
He can also run, block and elude, as LaRosa would soon find out as the athletically-blessed Byrd (he said his vertical's been measured at 40 inches, and his coach said he runs a 4.5) became one of East Bay's best players, rushing for almost 1,400 yards and 20 touchdowns in three seasons at running back.
Wednesday, amidst bookshelves in the media center topped with totem poles and a large throng of teammates, family and supporters, Byrd signed with Marshall, the first Indian to go Division I since safety Dominique Daniels signed with Nicholls State in 2006.
"That really makes it special,'' said Byrd, who rushed for 470 yards and nine touchdowns this past season. "To be the first in seven years, that's pretty cool."
The 6-0, 198-pound running back was always determined to get to college, said his mother KaTina Byrd. Born in Tallahassee, he told her as a second grader it was his destiny, and he dreamed of playing for Florida State as a kid.
"He always did whatever the coaches needed, played whereever he was needed,'' said KaTina Byrd. "I just told him he had to work hard in school to make it happen.''
Byrd is waiting on a test score, but has scheduled the ACT and SAT just in case. He attracted interested from schools like UCF and FIU, and he described his recruitment as on and off, but when he visited Marshall he fell in love.
"Man, they had great people up there, they said we love you, and I loved that,'' the soft-spoken Byrd said. "I was like, Wow, they're nice.'"
LaRosa joined the Indians' staff that year Daniels signed, as a linebackers coach, never imagining it would take so long to have another big signee.
But he intends to make sure it's not another seven years.
"We plan on making sure you guys keep coming down to Big Bend,'' LaRosa said.