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Earnest Byner connects with Brandon Bostick after similar experience

Posted Feb 26, 2015

Former Brown shares experience, encouragement with former Packer TE

For Earnest Byner, the play didn’t immediately trigger the memories. It was the words.

Byner was watching the NFC Championship with millions of other NFL fans when Green Bay tight end Brandon Bostick bobbled an onside kick that Seattle recovered and used as a launching pad toward a stunning overtime victory. The firestorm directed at Bostick, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and instantaneous nature of social media, was immediate, fierce and included numerous death threats. It wasn’t until a couple of days later, when the fumble was still a hot topic of conversation, that Byner, the former Browns running back, heard Bostick say the magic words.

“The whole world is on my back about this thing,” Bostick told reporters during his final interview as a Packer. He was cut a couple of weeks later.

Byner, whose goal-line fumble at the end of the 1988 AFC Championship against Denver prevented the Browns from advancing to their first Super Bowl in franchise history, remembered thinking the same exact thing during his darkest moments.

“That struck me when I heard that,” Byner said Thursday in a phone interview with ClevelandBrowns.com. “When I heard him say that, I was like, ‘Oh, no. I don't want him to go through what I went through.”

In a first-person account Thursday on MMQB.com, Bostick revealed the ugly details of the backlash to his fumble and explained how his life “changed forever” the moment he jumped and tried to catch the bouncing kick instead of following through with his assignment to block. Bostick, who entered the NFL in 2012 as an undrafted free agent from Newberry College, revealed he’s been in constant communication with Byner, who has been a “big help,” Bostick wrote.

RELATED: Byner sees big potential in Browns rookie Isaiah Crowell

Byner said he reached out to Bostick through Sam Gash, a longtime friend who is currently Green Bay’s running backs coach. Gash passed along Byner’s number and Bostick promptly called.

The two have been talking regularly ever since.

“I tried to give him some understanding about the situation, first of all, to help out his situation, learn about his life, how he got to where he is, to try to help him understand, ‘Yeah, the reality is you did cost the game but you weren't the only reason that you all lost,’” Byner said. “I tried to help him understand that immediately so he doesn't have to try to carry that weight and also help him use the negative energy to go on to build something from that, to build something positive out of this.

"I'm trying to get him to use all the things, the emotions, the energy, the negatives, the positives, whatever those are, to make his career what he wants it to be. His career's not over just like my career wasn't over."

After the fumble, Byner went on to log 10 more seasons in the NFL, including two with the Redskins that saw him clear 1,000 yards. From 1998-2013, he coached with five different NFL teams and, just a few months ago, published his first book, “Everybody Fumbles.”

Bostick has a fresh start with the Vikings, who signed him shortly after he was released by the Packers. He acknowledged 2015 wouldn’t be easy and that he’d be haunted by the fumble for years to come, but expressed excitement about the opportunity.

He’ll have Byner, who said he reaches out to Bostick whenever he thinks about him, just a phone call or text message away during the highs and lows. The communication will be encouragement mixed with a call to action.

“You're going to have to do what I'm doing to you,” Byner said. “My charge to you is to not just take this information and keep it and bottle it inside you. You're going to have to take this and help somebody else. You're going to take this and teach somebody else how to deal with it.”

I'm trying to get him to use all the things, the emotions, the energy, the negatives, the positives, whatever those are, to make his career what he wants it to be. His career's not over just like my career wasn't over.

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