With Kentucky's spring football practice in full bloom, I thought it was time to talk to Dicky ... Lyons, that is.
The colorful and charismatic former Kentucky football player's personality is only topped by his extraordinary talent. Lyons, the son of former UK Ring of Honor performer Dicky Lyons, Sr. ('66-'68), was an integral part of the emergence of UK football into realm of relevance in the world of college football:
Lyons, Jr. continued his family's legacy of excellence by leaving UK ranked fourth in career receiving yards with 1,752; tied for third in career touchdown receptions with 18; tied for third in most receptions in a single game with 12; and ranked fifth for most career pass receptions with 141.
His career highlight reel is littered with big performances, in big games -- Making plays was his specialty, and making "something out of nothing" was his creed. Here are a few of Lyons' game, and career achievements:
- In 2006 he caught 50 passes for 822 yards and nine touchdowns ... He sported a team-high 16.4 yards per catch average ... He set a UK record by catching two touchdown passes in three straight games (U of L, Texas State, and Ole Miss) ... His 80-yard touchdown versus Louisville ranks as the eighth longest touchdown reception in UK history ... After guaranteeing victory versus Mississippi State, Lyons caught eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown ... In that game he made one of the most spectacular, one-handed, toeing-the-line, back-of-the-end zone, game-winning touchdowns that I have ever witnessed.
- In 2007 he caught 56 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns ... Lyons caught eight passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns versus Florida ... On the first play from scrimmage, in the first game of the year, Lyons set the tone for the season by scoring on a 51 yard touchdown pass against Eastern Kentucky.
- In his injury-shortened senior year in 2008, in only five-and-a-half games, Lyons caught 33 passes for 264 yards ... He was leading the SEC in receptions when he tore his MCL in the first half of the game versus South Carolina ... Versus Middle Tennessee Lyons caught 12 passes for 79 yards ... Against Alabama he put UK on the scoreboard with a 26 yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
The talented Louisiana native is currently rehabbing his injured knee, with an eye on a future in the NFL. Which leads me to offer this advice ...
If one owns a professional football team, and is interested in an elusive, speedy, win-at-all-costs punt returner and receiver, then let me say that Dicky is your man. At 5'11" and 190 lbs, Lyons may not be as tall or big as the prototypical NFL receiver, but his heart, desire, and intangibles offset any perceived physical shortcomings.
He was a difference-maker in the SEC. And if one can make a difference in the Southeastern Conference, then the NFL should take notice.
I recently had the great pleasure of speaking with Dicky about his time at UK, and his future:
ASOB: Your father played at UK, because of that, was it a difficult decision to attend Kentucky?
Lyons: "It really wasn't. I committed to UK my junior year. I was getting a lot of letters from other schools, and I went to LSU's Junior Days, but UK was where I wanted to go."
ASOB: Did you feel any added pressure coming to Kentucky because of the accomplishments of your father?
Lyons: "Not so much added pressure ... it was exciting how everybody remembered him. It was really good to see how many people appreciated what he did."
"I did feel like I had to prove to my teammates; that I wasn't there because of what he did. I had to show them that I could play."
ASOB: UK was still feeling the impact of probation when you arrived -- Did your recruiter have to sell you on the fact that brighter days lie ahead for Kentucky football?
Lyons: "My father knew Mike Archer (his recruiter). He coached at LSU, and my father was comfortable sending me to UK."
"After coach Brooks' first year at UK, I really didn't know where I wanted to go, but my dad was comfortable with Brooks ... he knew he would get the program going in the right direction."
ASOB: You scored an 80 yard touchdown versus U of L in your sophomore year; a 24 yard touchdown versus Clemson in the Music City Bowl your sophomore year; and a game-winning touchdown catch versus Mississippi State your junior year. Do any of these touchdowns stand out as the highlight of your career?
Lyons: "I think the one that I remember the most is my first touchdown ... which was earlier in the U of L game, where I caught the 80-yarder."
"I wasn't even supposed to be in the game. I was alternating reps with another receiver, but I heard the play call; a 5-yard out in the end zone ... and I said to myself, 'I got this;' I knew it was a touchdown."
ASOB: Did you just run onto the field?
Lyons: "I needed to talk to Joker (Phillips, UK"s offensive coordinator) but he was up in the press box. So I made something up, and went into the game ... I thought that if the other receiver scored, that I might not ever see the field. After that I kind of steamrolled my spot on the team."
ASOB: Did you do that often -- Put yourself in the game?
Lyons: "I put myself in the game all the time. Sometimes I put myself in if I thought I could score on a play, or had an advantage."
ASOB: Prior to the Mississippi State game in 2006 you famously guaranteed victory. Was that a planned statement, or did it just "come out."
Lyons: "I knew I was going to say something that people didn't like. It was after we lost to LSU 49-0, and a lot of the guys were beginning to think that we'd win three or four games and call it a season ... like "old Kentucky." I tried to light a fire ... I said we're going to beat Mississippi State like LSU just beat us."
"Coach Brooks got mad, and made me run a lot of "gassers" after practice. 'Dre (Andre' Woodson) saw me and joined me, and then some of the other players saw us running and joined in. They told me they knew what I was doing (with the guarantee)."
ASOB: In UK's historic victory over #1 LSU in 2007, you "pancaked" LSU safety Craig Steltz (a friend of Lyons'). Did you know it was him before you flattened him on national television?
Lyons: "I knew EXACTLY who it was."
"He had been on top of me (shadowing Lyons) all day, and I knew I was faster than he was -- I ran against him in track in high school, and I always beat him by 15 yards -- I told 'Dre, "If Steltz is on top of me, throw it to me ..."
"When I went outside, I saw him (Steltz), and I squared up, and made a nice, clean hit ... if Stevie Johnson would've followed me, he would've scored a touchdown."
ASOB: Did you notice a difference in how Rich Brooks coached from early on in your career (when UK wasn't winning), compared to later in your career when UK was winning and going to bowl games?
Lyons: "The difference between my first two years and my last three (Lyons redshirted one year due to injuries) was that we had to prove to them that we could win games."
"They stopped looking for players to win games, and they started playing the players. They started redshirting guys ... I would say the biggest difference is that they stopped looking for players, and started playing the players (the ones that proved that they could win)."
ASOB: Did losing Curtis Pulley in the pre-season last year cost UK some victories?
Lyons: "He had the lead in the quarterback battle ..."
"Half the reason I came back for my senior season was because of Curtis. Me and Curtis became very close. All the other guys I had played with were gone ... I knew he had the talent to win games."
"I knew Mike (Hartline), but Curtis is the one I worked with all spring, he knew I could bail him out, but they kicked him off the team ... I still don't know why, but we definitely would have won more games."
ASOB: You "still don't know why" Pulley was kicked off the team?
Lyons: "I know they were upset with him. I know he got into trouble with his driver's license and registration, but the rule is that you have to fail three drug tests (to get kicked off the team), and I know for a fact that didn't happen. I know he made some mistakes ... and he was given some chances, but I put it on the players. We should have come together and let them know that we wanted him on the team."
"With all the young players, he would have made a difference, but Hartline did a great job. I thought they gave up on him too soon, after I was injured (in the South Carolina game)."
"Look up some of the old articles about 'Dre (early in his career) and see what they were writing about him. Look at Randall Cobb; he played well, but how many games did he win?"
"If they would have let Hartline throw deeper, but all he threw were short passes ... we didn't give him enough time, and they didn't trust him enough to throw the deep ball."
ASOB: So the coaches prevented Hartline from throwing deep?
Lyons: "Yeah. With the deep ball you have to read safeties, and you're more likely to get picked off ... he did throw a couple of picks, so I became the running game."
"You're never going to get better if you don't trust him."
ASOB: Going into the 2009 season -- Do you think Hartline's experience trumps the perceived talent upgrade of Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski?
Lyons: "I go back and I'm thinking that Dusty Bonner had a great year (in 1999), and they play JLo (Jared Lorenzen) ... sometimes it's all politics."
"Bonner had one of the greatest seasons ever, he's still in the top-five ... sometimes you don't know."
ASOB: You tore your MCL; how's the rehab going?
Lyons: "It's pretty good, I'm alright. I'm at about 75% right now. It'll be about three more months before I'm 100%. It's taking longer than I expected, but not as long as the medical people expected."
ASOB: How's your NFL prospects looking right now?
Lyons: "I know I can have an impact on any NFL team. I caught some punts for the Pats (New England Patriots), and working against the other guys in the combine; I know that if they're gonna play, that I can play."
"I'm getting a lot of calls ... talking to trainers. I've been injured before, it's all part of the game. But I've talked to five or six different teams and they're leaning toward what Rafael Little did; putting me on injured reserve if I can prove that I'm able. It's frustrating ... It's not hard getting back to 100%, it's hard thinking about what would be if I wasn't injured."
I want to sincerely thank Dicky for taking the time to speak with me. His sincerity is just one of the reasons he is one of my favorite Kentucky football players of all-time. He truly exemplifies the word "winner' and hopefully he will enjoy many touchdown-filled Sunday afternoons.
Dicky is ably represented by X-A-M Sports & Entertainment, who helped facilitate the interview -- My thanks to Shawn at X-A-M.
Autograph Signing Session Alert: Lyons will be signing autographs at Fayette Mall on a yet-to-be determined date -- Be looking and listening for the time and date over the next week or so.
Wazoosports.com Kentucky Derby Festival Classic
Over the last few days Tru has been promoting A Sea of Blue's live-streaming of Saturday's Wazoosports.com Kentucky Derby Festival Classic basketball game.
Jeff Sheppard, Wazoosports' Director of Sales, was kind enough to ask if A Sea of Blue was interested in broadcasting the game. We appreciate Jeff thinking of little ol' ASoB, and we look forward to providing those unable to attend the game the opportunity to see the future college stars in action.
Some of those scheduled to play include: UK signees Jon Hood and Daniel Orton, as well as U of L commits Rakeem Buckles, Peyton Siva, Stephan Van Treese, and Mike Marra. Indiana will be represented by Christian Watford, Maurice Creek and Jordan Hulls.
Former UK commitment G. J. Vilarino dropped out of the game, but new UK commitment DeMarcus Cousins MAY replace Vilarino on the roster.
Game time is Saturday, 7:00 PM (EST).
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!