Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
If you’ve found your way here, no doubt you are familiar with my investigative piece on former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla from last week.
It wound up being a little more provocative than I anticipated. The reaction, both positive and negative, was quite draining on a personal level.
A little background…
I had already been working on a more general piece on Lyerla and why he wasn’t playing, which had led me to a couple of very good sources around the Ducks program. One of them is a NFL regional scout who I have known for a few years now. Another is a reporter in Oregon who is eminently familiar with not only the Ducks football program but also all of the players of local provenance, which includes Lyerla.
The day he quit the Oregon football team, I just had to know why. This was a young man whose football skills greatly enamored me. I rated him #16 overall in my initial Top 103 over at RealGM.com, the second-rated tight end on my board. I even wrote the comment:
“16. Colt Lyerla, TE/H-back. Oregon. Spotlight: He can line up all over the formation and is equally effective as a blocker and a seam-stretching receiver. Plays like Aaron Hernandez did in New England before he became a serial killer.”
I wrote that line on October 2nd in a vain attempt to be funny. Honestly at that point I didn’t know a lot about Lyerla off the field other than his regrettable tweets about Sandy Hook. I also knew he had missed a lot of practice time but I was naïve about why.
My enquiring mind wanted to know, so I asked two people whom I trust. The first response caught me by surprise. I truthfully did not know about his family situation, or the various scrapes with illegal activity. I know more about Finnish geopolitical history than I do high school recruiting, which I don’t follow at all and don’t care to know either.
One of those sources pointed me to a person within the Oregon football program. Our exchanges were brief but poignant. Much of what this person told me did not make the final edit of my original piece because I could not corroborate it. This information did lay an underlying tone about Colt’s personality which I ran with, perhaps irresponsibly by not asking more questions of more people, including Lyerla himself. For that, I do apologize.
The feedback was interesting, to say the least. Many people loved it, and I thank you for all the kind words and support.
Many did not like it, and they weren’t shy about expressing themselves. I had to close the comments on the piece because it was too hostile and personal, not only to me but to others who wrote in support of my work. I will not tolerate that.
I got threats, both on Twitter and via email. Most were fairly innocuous, but some took it way too far. One woman threatened to drug my children, whom she named and pointed out where my son goes to school (it was old information, but disturbing nonetheless). Another person who claims to be “great budz” with Lyerla advised me to “arm ur ass, u gon need it bro” when I go to the Combine in Indianapolis this winter.
I had exchanges with Colt himself on Twitter. His tone vacillated from civil but disappointed to outright inflammatory, including threats of litigation. I offered for him to tell his story, either via an interview or allowing him to write a response in his own hand, which I told him I would publish unedited. Too many interlopers made continuing any sort of communication impossible.
And then last night happened. Lyerla was arrested for possession of cocaine and interfering with a police officer. You can read a great account of it by Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) here.
A lot of folks looked to me on Twitter last night for a reaction. I shied away from it at the time. Some people wanted me to gloat. Others pronounced vindication for my reporting. Some even accused me of pushing Lyerla to snort cocaine.
I did not take joy in hearing of his arrest. In the half hour or so between the initial news of the arrest and the official arrest record going public, I had a strong idea the drug in question was more than marijuana. I was not surprised, at all, at the details of the arrest.
This is a young man who does not need our derision or finger points. Colt Lyerla needs help. Sadly he makes it very hard to help him, but that only means he needs it even more.
From what I gather, his arrest is unlikely to produce any jail time. I am a strong advocate of alternatives to jail for nonviolent drug offenders, and I hope that’s what happens here.
Colt Lyerla needs to get himself clean, first and foremost. I sincerely hope he takes rehab seriously. I would also strongly encourage him to get away from Oregon and the enablers who surround him there.
He has already signed with XL Sports to represent him and prepare him for the NFL Draft. One of the first things they need to do is get Colt out of his current crowd. Even if they are good intentioned, they’re clearly not helping him advance his life.
As far as his draft status, the timing of the arrest might ultimately benefit Lyerla. It’s late October. The Combine is in late February. That gives him four months to completely sober up and get his head in the right place. I don’t expect him to be invited there anymore, but I suspect he will be in town regardless. He will have a lot of very tough questions to answer, and they will not be asked in a polite or positive-tinged tone. Teams are going to want to see how he responds to being pushed and being treated without any semblance of respect. XL Sports (whom I have not contacted for comment) has a lot of work to do.
I’ll admit it: I’m still rooting for the feel-good story. Even after all the negativity directed at me personally from people trying to represent or defend Colt Lyerla, I want to see him make it.
Maybe it’s because I loathe seeing talent wasted, as it was with Charles Rogers and Titus Young to name but two. From what everyone has advised me about Lyerla, and I wrote this before, is that he’s not an inherently bad person. Instead of burying him and writing him off as just another bad seed, we should root for him to overcome all the negatives he’s faced in life.