Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bird remains in constant motion

The Wichita Eagle

CONWAY SPRINGS - Senior Jaydan Bird had to be exhausted. He and his teammates had just finished one of 50 sprints during an early morning conditioning workout this summer.

Instead of standing still and catching his breath, though, Bird patted one teammate's shoulders, then lifted up another up by his head before slapping the hands of yet another teammate.

That's Bird.

Sitting still is not how he chooses to spend his time.

"He's always been like this," said his mother, Kristy Bird. "He's the active one. I've always kept him in tons of sports because it's the only thing to knock the energy out of him."

Bird, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker who has committed to Oklahoma, didn't take many breaks from sports this summer.

He spent the time lifting weights, running and learning Conway Springs' single-wing offense. Bird transferred from Andover Central during the winter to live with an aunt and uncle because his mom was taking his sick grandmother. His grandmother's health has improved, but Bird has decided Conway Springs is a good fit for him.

He did masonry work, lugging 70-pound bags of concrete, shoveling mud, carrying bricks. And he worked out three days a week with trainer Brian Butler.

Such a busy schedule has prepared Bird for the football season.

"That goes along with training," Bird said. "I believe some high school coaches, they run kids a lot... because most sit at home.

"I don't want to just sit."

Bird's definitely used to being on the go, which made his missing the last half of the 2007 Andover Central season with a spiral fracture in his left fibula especially frustrating.

In Week 4, he ran a sweep and after he cut back inside, he was hit low on one side and then hit on the other.

Bird still wanted to be on the field, he wanted to be going, going, going. Yet he was stranded on the sideline, forced to watch his teammates while wearing a boot.

"It was a good seven weeks before I was 100 percent.... I learned patience," Bird said. "Lots of it. People tell me patience is a virtue."

His mother laughed when she considered her son's patience.

"He wasn't quite as patient as he thought," she said. "He did learn because it slowed him down, too. He's very active all the time, wanting to move, do something, work, get better. And it really, when he was in the boot and the crutches, it slowed him down."

Bird insists the injury was a positive.

"That (time) probably molded me more than anything," he said. "Being patient, going along with it, learning. It gave me the mindset that you give it all, you can't leave anything, that I need to raise the bar even more. You do not know when your last down or last play is going to be. It could be now or in the NFL."

The injury also has intensified his desire to succeed in his senior season.

"No. 1, I want to make up for last season," he said. "That was a disappointment for me. I want to prove once again that I am a Division I football player and that I am going to be successful on the field."

Bird's also looking for a Class 3A title. Conway Springs is a favorite after finishing 10-3 and advancing to the semifinals in 2007.

The Cardinals return 16 starters, so adding Bird is a bonus.

On offense he's got speed and the ability to run over and through defenses. He's an even more potent force at linebacker, where he tracks the ball quickly and he's physical when he gets there.

Bird's always-on-the-move personality is part of why he chose to commit to Oklahoma. He will graduate in December and then move to Norman.

While he spoke of OU's tradition, its success and academics, a huge factor was that he sees himself playing for Sooners linebackers coach Brent Venables.

"My options were wide open before I committed. My mind was wide open... my linebackers coach, I see myself in him," Bird said. "He's a really fiery guy and he's go-go-go. He's nonstop. He's really outgoing and talkative."

Bird's personality is one reason he's fit in so well with his Conway Springs teammates.

"He works hard; he'll get in there and get after it and do what he needs to do," Conway Springs coach Lelin George said. "That fits in well with our kids."

It doesn't hurt that Bird has ties to Conway Springs beyond his aunt and uncle. He lived in Conway Springs until fifth grade.

"I grew up with them," he said. "I went to school with them, so it's not anything new."

The town of Conway Springs doesn't necessarily bring good memories for Jaydan.

In 1992, his dad, Jeff, died in a car crash just south of town. Jeff Bird, 21, was driving his two sons, Jaydan and Jordan, to buy Kristy a Valentine's Day present.

Jaydan, then 1, broke his collarbone in the crash, while Jordan, 2 ½, was paralyzed from the waist down.

Then, when Jaydan Bird was in fifth grade, there was a fire at his family's home, so the family moved out of town.

Bird has no memories of his dad, other than what his mom tells him --"She tells me stories, how I'm just like him," Bird said. He has some pictures, although most were lost in the fire.

As devastating as the loss of Jeff Bird was, Jaydan, Jordan and Kristy became closer because of it. That exists to this day, even though Jordan now is a successful wheelchair track athlete and attends Arizona on an athletic scholarship, while Jaydan is in Conway Springs heading soon to Oklahoma.

"The accident happened when (Jaydan) was 1, but I think these boys would have been good athletes anyway," said Kristy, who also has a 6-year-old son, Sami. "But they wouldn't have had the drive and determination to succeed if it hadn't been for the wreck.... It's a driving force."

So is Kristy.

Jaydan Bird has put in time and effort to become one of the state's best players.

But he's always had his mom right behind him.

"My mom pushes me," he said. "She pushes me and my brother to the limit. She wants us to be successful in everything we do. I think after the loss of my dad, I think it gave my mom motivation to make us even more successful. She's given us the edge, she's pushed us, she's done everything for us."

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