Although football was his focus at the time, Byers, a second-year medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, quickly realized he had another passion – medicine.
By Brittany Otis
Growing up in Alabama, 23-year-old Matthew Byers loved the game of football and the competitiveness that came with it. “Football was my passion.”
“I consistently played the game from seventh grade to my last year of college,” he said. “I’ve played the sport for most of my life.”
Although football was his focus at the time, Byers, a second-year medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, quickly realized he had another passion – medicine. “I wanted to help others and decided to take pre-med courses heading into college. Football was a big part of my life and I still wanted to play. I had to figure out a way to make it work.”
Byers enrolled in the pre-med program at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Ala., and was able to continue playing football. The rigors of school and football often felt overwhelming, he said, but he was determined to do both.
With good time management and set priorities, he was able to find a schedule that worked for him.
“Every day from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. I would try to get most of my schoolwork finished before or in between football activities. Then, I would have most nights available to hang out with friends.”
His schedule was tight, but he said it was worth it. He also found time to join a fraternity.
Nearing the end of his undergraduate years, Byers had to make a difficult decision. He ended his collegiate football career and chose to pursue medical school instead. “Football was a major part of my life so it was strange how it just suddenly stopped,” he said.
Byers explained he didn’t have aspirations to become a pro athlete, but the decision to not play football was tough. He knew, though, it was important to focus solely on academics for his future career.
Eventually, he chose to attend the USA College of Medicine because of the small class sizes and its encouraging faculty members.
His competitiveness didn’t end with his football career. Byers now serves as the intramural chair for his class and competes in a variety of recreational sports.
He’s undecided about the specialty he’d like to pursue in school. For now, he’s enjoying the moment and taking it day by day.
“I plan to help my patients by being the kind of doctor that always puts them first,” he said. “I want to be able to console and inform all my patients while alleviating any issues or concerns they may have. That’s my goal.”