Kevin Byrne and former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick were together at Byrne's home in Hilton Head, S.C. recently when the telephone rang.
The timing was perfect. The Pro Football Hall of Fame informed Byrne that he will receive the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame Award of Excellence for his distinguished public relations career with the Ravens and Browns.
Receiving a prestigious award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame gave Byrne and Billick another special moment to celebrate together.
"I'm beaming and humbled at the same time," Byrne said. "It makes you reflect on so many memories."
"I think it's wonderful that the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame are doing this, recognizing people beyond the coaches, general managers, players and owners who contributed to the game."
The honor was announced Wednesday, and Byrne will be one of 17 people officially honored during a reception and awards luncheon on June 28-29 in Canton, Ohio.
The 73-year-old Byrne is an original Raven who spent 41 seasons with the franchise as one of the most respected public relations figures in pro sports. The former Executive Vice President of Public and Community Relations was accessible and trusted while building strong relationships with owners, front office personnel, coaches, players, and the media. He retired in May of 2020 and remained on staff as a consultant with the team through the 2021 season.
Led by Byrne, the Ravens' public relations staff earned three (2010, 2012 & 2016) Pete Rozelle Awards, voted on by the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). The award is given to the NFL PR team that consistently strives for excellence in its service for and relationships with the media.
Following the 2019 season, Byrne was nominated for the PFWA's Jack Horrigan Award – given to a league or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job. Over the course of his career, Byrne has also provided media relations assistance at 25 Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls at the NFL's request. In 2012, Byrne accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquette's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at the university's annual alumni awards ceremony.
A Cleveland native, Byrne began his NFL career with the Browns and moved to Baltimore when then-owner Art Modell moved the franchise in 1996. Byrne mentioned Modell and Owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager Eric DeCosta, Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome, and Head Coach John Harbaugh among the many people who inspired him every day.
"Two great owners, Art and Steve, who earned their way to their success and shared it," Byrne said. "I've been fortunate to be around so many inspirational people. I got to hang out every day with John Harbaugh and Brian. Ozzie and I are like an old married couple. Our offices were next to each other for years, we sat on charters next to each other for years. Eric's a close friend who I competed with on the racquetball court for 20 years. In addition, you get to be around some of the greatest athletes in the world who are on the whole tremendous people."
Byrne also gave special credit to his wife, Sally, their four children, and his entire family for their support throughout his career.
"My family is so excited by this, which is nice to see," Byrne said. "Going back to Canton to receive this honor, not far from where I grew up, is going to be special."