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Byron Leftwich


On his reputation for playing through extraordinary pain
You're the leader of a football team, and the guys are accustomed to you being in the huddle. If you're not in there, it's not right--they look to you to get them out of tough situations. [When I get injured] I tell myself, No matter what, always get up. If I can walk, and I can help my team, I always will.

On growing up in a rough D.C. area near RFK Stadium and attending inner-city H.D. Woodson High
It was like Lean on Me times 10. All I knew was D.C. We never went on vacation, never got to see another city. People say, man, you grew up in a bad neighborhood, there was this much crime, this much that. We didn't look at it as good or bad. We had as much fun as you can have in high school.

On watching game film in high school
None of the teams really had grass. It was, like, dirt and chalk. You tried to watch film, and if a guy was running and a bunch of guys got to blocking, there was just dust everywhere, and you couldn't even see the field.

On his mother, Brenda, who worked two jobs as a cafeteria manager to support Byron and his older brother, Kevin
She's the best human being on this planet. I didn't get to see her a lot because she was working so much, but she was the one who told me right from wrong. She led me on the path to be successful.

On how he became a quarterback
When I was younger, I wanted to catch touchdowns. I was playing receiver in middle school, and our quarterback overthrew me in practice. We were supposed to run the ball back to the huddle, but I was a little mad. I grabbed the ball and threw it back--it was far. The coach saw the throw, and he was, like, 'Who threw that?' This was a Wednesday. I was starting that Saturday at quarterback.

On his Friday-night ritual
In college [at Marshall], the night before the game, we'd go to the movies. I still have that Friday regimen. It gets your mind off football. By that point you did all the preparing you can do, you're ready to play, and it's time to take care of your body, rest. It lets your mind reset for a little bit, because you've still got two days, and you don't want to be too hyped too early. I just saw Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

On the likelihood of breaking the NFL record of seven TD passes in a game, a feat for which he'd earn $50,000 for charity as a member of the Rbk Touchdown Squad
Seven touchdowns? You need to have some luck on a couple of them and throw a hard-earned five. It's a tough thing to do--but it is possible.

On his best friend in football
Chad Pennington. When I first went to Marshall, he showed me how to prepare as a quarterback. He was the best quarterback in college football. He could have had a big head. But he helped me as much as he could and tried to make sure I was ready to play once he left. We've been great friends ever since.

On his love life
I'm single right now, but to this day I have a crush on [The Cosby Show's] Claire Huxtable. Man, I've had a crush on her since I was five years old. That was just the show--I grew up wanting Claire Huxtable to be my girlfriend all my life.

--As told to Ben Reiter