Markel Byrd, 20, died Tuesday in a single car accident near Gallup, New Mexico.
The UNM Athletic Department announced early Wednesday morning sophomore safety Markel Byrd died in a single-car accident just across the Arizona state line, west of Gallup, Tuesday afternoon.
Markel Byrd was driving home to San Diego, California for the holidays with his girlfriend, 20-year-old Alexus M. Ortiz, when their car suffered a blowout on I-40 west of Gallup, in Arizona’s Apache County.
Arizona State Troopers said Markel Byrd was driving a Chevy SUV westbound on I-40 at mile marker 351.9 when the right rear tire blew out. The vehicle went into the median and rolled approximately three times, according to State Troopers spokesman Bart Graves.
Both Markel and Ortiz were ejected from the vehicle. Markel Byrd died instantly and Ortiz was taken to a Gallup hospital in critical condition, according to Graves.
“I’m not hurting,” said Markel Byrd’s mother, Stephanie Threadgill, in an interview in her home in San Diego. “I prayed to God to take away my hurt so now I feel like I can be strong for everyone else instead of them being strong for me.”
You can see where Markel’s strength came from.
“Markel was my everything,” Threadgill said. “He was all you could ever hope for in a kid, never in trouble, never out of line, very respectful. He loved everyone and treated everybody the same.”
Before coming to UNM in 2013, Markel was an outstanding high school athlete at Horizon Christian Academy in San Diego – a leader all the way.
“Markel was like a shining star,” his mother said. “Very, very outspoken. Very, very awesome. He was a good athlete. He was a Christian as well, just overall a good kid.”
Markel Byrd was just 20 years old.
“My son was an awesome kid, a very good role model,” Threadgill said. “Whatever you do in life, enjoy it to the fullest, because you never know what’s going to be your last day or your last time.”
“This is an absolute tragedy. Markel Byrd was an outstanding person and student-athlete and we will miss him,” said UNM football coach Bob Davie. “I was with the family late Tuesday night and obviously they are devastated. Our thoughts and prayers go to them. Markel will forever be a member of our family.”
The athletic department says it will provide more information on Wednesday. Memorial service and funeral arrangements are pending.
Markel Byrd’s Career
Markel Byrd had played safety for the past two years after redshirting in 2013. He tied for the team lead with three interceptions this season and had 44 tackles.
Against rival New Mexico State, he had his only career sack, then intercepted an Aggie pass to help the Lobos come back and win.
He also had an important interception and a career-high 11 tackles, including a game-saving one at the goal line on the final play, in a 31-24 upset win at Boise State this season.
Markel Byrd attended high school at Horizon Christian Academy in San Diego, where he played quarterback and defensive back. He also was the team’s punter and kick and punt returner.
Sportact Editors and Wire Services