Remembering a great sports mom – and friend
By Jed Blackwell/The Spartanburg Sports Report
Every time Tracey Petty Byrd laid eyes on me, I knew there was one statement I could count on.
She was always complimentary of my work. She was always concerned about my family. She was always positive, always encouraging.
And she always made sure to tell me the same thing.
“I sure do love your mama.”
My mother taught Tracey junior high school English. She taught me the same, so I’ve seen her in action. I’ve never questioned Mama’s impact on countless students over the years, but it sure was good to hear Tracey reinforce it so many years down the road.
I’ve known Tracey for more than most of my life. A teacher’s kid hangs out in classrooms well after school hours. Sometimes favorite students do too, and I remember Tracey well from those days.
What are these remembrances doing in a blog on a sports site? I’ll tell you.
Tracey’s brother was one of the best football players I’ve ever seen. John Paul Petty was a fearsome force in the middle for Chapman’s first great defense, the 1988 team that advanced to the Upper State title game. Huge, fast, and physical, he was the prototype for every star linebacker who would anchor a Doc Davis-coached defense for years to come. A scholarship at North Greenville awaited him after high school.
John Paul fell on some hard times. Things happened, things I don’t know anything about. He was found dead in Spartanburg some years ago.
Tracey and her husband Dwayne raised some great ballplayers, too. Dwayne Jr. was a standout on the first Chapman team that took the next step on the road his uncle helped to start, appearing in the 2A state title game. Dwayne Sr. spoke to that team a couple times, prayed with them, and loved on them all as if they were his own sons. Dwayne took a scholarship to play and work at the Apprentice School in Virginia, and his mother was delighted with his progress every time I asked about him.
Simeon was a standout performer, even from a very young age. I don’t cover many middle school games because I can’t cover them all, and it’s not fair to those I don’t get to. But Mabry Jr. High had a special event in conjunction with a game and I knew I’d finally get to see the kid I’d heard so much about.
Simeon torched Thomas Jefferson for close to 200 yards rushing, three touchdowns, four tackles, a sack and a recovered fumble.
In the first half.
He went on to a stellar career at Spartanburg High, and eventually to play at North Greenville. Tracey and I talked more than once about the amazing parallels between her son and her brother.
Hezekiah was a defensive stalwart on Spartanburg’s 2014 state championship team. Big stop after big stop in big game after big game, he was one of the unsung defensive heroes who pushed the Vikings over the top. He’s on the cover of our print edition celebrating that game, rejoicing with the trophy.
There are more Byrd brothers ready to step in the gap at Spartanburg. Trent was the most recent to play for the Vikings, suiting up on last year’s defensive line.
Through all those years of all those games, the Byrd family greeted me and spoke to me like I was family myself. Tracey, peppering me with questions about my work and my family. Dwayne Sr., with a broad smile and a hug around the neck more often than not. The same smiles and same hugs from his sons, with an always-respectful “yes sir” when I asked if classes (and football) were going well.
Tracey helped raise some fine young men. And suddenly, tragically, she’s gone. She passed away overnight, sometime in the wee hours of Sunday or the early hours of Monday morning.
She leaves behind a loving husband and her wonderful children. I only know the sports-related stories. Knowing Tracey and Dwayne is enough to tell me the rest of the stories are even better.
A friend of the family is looking to provide assistance with Tracey’s funeral expenses. The goal is almost met, but you can donate at www.gofundme.com/tracey-byrd-funeral-arrangements if you’re inclined.
It’s no solace, no peace, and little comfort, but all I can offer the Byrd children is what Tracey always told me.
I sure did love your mama.
A whole lot of people did.