Byard found himself in the middle of a Twitter feud with Sanders, who now works as an NFL Network analyst, over who is the top safety in the NFL. Primetime gave that honor to Tyrann Mathieu. It was a debate fueled by opinion that turned a little nasty when Sanders called Byard a "fan" in response.
"I asked him a simple question of how he came up with the information on the best safety. He threw me aside like I was a nobody," Byard told ESPN on Wednesday morning. "It just puts a bigger chip on my shoulder. I come from a situation where I've been ignored my whole life. Being a two-star prospect, having maybe five offers coming out, broke every school record at my school, and I was still talked about being a Day 3 or undrafted guy. In two years, I'm an All-Pro and Pro Bowler."
Byard might not be a household name yet, but he appears on pace to be. NFL players, coaches and media have taken note after his All-Pro and Pro Bowl 2017 season in which he recorded eight interceptions.
The Tennessee safety said he has Sanders' tweet saved as the lock screen on his phone for motivation.
"This just lets me know I still haven't done nothing yet. It lets me know no matter what you're doing in this league you gotta keep working until you don't have to introduce yourself no more," Byard said. "Some guys don't have to reach the All-Pro or Pro Bowl pinnacle to get respect from legends. I understand the position I'm in, being a small-school guy, I have to fight for every inch of respect that I can get in this league. This chip will stay on my shoulder until I'm out the game."
You're looking at who writers tell u who's the best I know who players and former players feel is the best. I rest my case. You continue to be a fan and i will continue being the man. #Truth https://t.co/gnpwJHjxEK— Deion Sanders (@DeionSanders) March 20, 2018
But the numbers nor film add up. How do you overlook guys like Harrison Smith, Earl Thomas, and Eric Berry as not being the best in the game? I never said I was the best but I'm on my way. You continue to be a fan and I will continue going to the pro bowl and being great #Truth https://t.co/s099lNjiq2— Kevin Byard (@KB31_Era) March 20, 2018
And if you didn't know, I am a CURRENT player who watches a ton of film so trust me, I know who's balling and who is not. Talking about be a fan 😂 https://t.co/s099lNjiq2— Kevin Byard (@KB31_Era) March 20, 2018
It's possible that Sanders did not know who Byard was when he made his initial comment, despite Byard tying the league lead in interceptions last season.
"It surprised me," Byard said. "I have a blue check by my Twitter account. He should've looked it at before he pushed send if that was the case."
The Twitter back-and-forth drew a lot of attention on social media Tuesday, with NFL players like fellow Titans cornerback Logan Ryan, Jalen Ramsey, Eric Weddle and Casey Hayward speaking up on Byard's behalf.
Ryan said this might have started when Sanders didn't call Byard for his "you ball, you get the call" segment on NFL Network after Byard had five interceptions in two games. Byard was surprised he didn't get more love after either game but chalked it up to being in a smaller market.
"I don't need any validation from anybody. The coaches and players know who I am," Byard said. "And I'm going to keep working until I got a gold jacket like Deion."
Man bump that! Talk that talk KB! You know you a beast, a whole lot of others know it too Trust me! You supposed to believe you the best! & You got the film to back it up! Everybody got opinions but just keep giving facts bro! https://t.co/dIegdgAnWi— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) March 20, 2018
Yeah @KB31_Era talk that talk. All gas no breaks. Facts>opinions— Casey Hayward (@show_case29) March 20, 2018
Ignorance bro. Just have to keep showing em— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) March 20, 2018
Byard said he isn't satisfied with his 2017 accomplishments, adding that he's aiming to be the best recognized safety in the NFL next.