Dicky Lyons didn't push son to play football

August 30, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Most fathers can't wait for a son to follow in their footsteps when it comes to sports.

Dicky Lyons Sr. was one of the Southeastern Conference's best players from 1966-68 when he played for Kentucky. He was the first player in league history to go over 1,000 yards rushing, returning punts and returning kicks. Dicky Lyons Sr. already has had his jersey retired at Kentucky.

Yet he never pushed his son, Dicky Lyons Jr., into a football career.

"He never wanted me to play football," said Dicky Lyons Jr., now a freshman receiver-kick returner at Kentucky. "I was in the ninth grade when I started playing football. I used to play soccer as a little kid, which really helped my footwork.

"Once I started playing football, he encouraged me to play. But until then he never pushed me to play at all. I had a good high school coach, Barry Wilson, who played for LSU and knew a lot about the game. I guess I just had some natural ability, too."


His father played for the New Orleans Saints and stayed there to live. However, he not only didn't push his son into a football career, he never told him about his NFL experiences.

"I didn't even know he played professional football until I was 10 years old and somebody else had to tell me," Lyons said. "He's modest. He won't talk a lot about it. Maybe that's why he never pushed me. He didn't want to talk about what he did."

Lyons' father was a lot more talkative at his son's high school games.

"He was on the chain gang (for first downs) when I started playing, but they kicked him off after a couple of games. He got into it a little too much. He backed off and went in the stands because my mom made him," the UK freshman said.

Lyons likely will have his parents in the stands Sunday when the Wildcats open the season at Louisville. He's been one of UK's most impressive kick returners in preseason drills as the Cats search for a replacement for Derek Abney, now UK's all-time return leader.

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks described Lyons as a "bigger, faster" Abney when he signed with the Wildcats. His high school coach said he never saw anyone catch him from behind. Kentucky teammates say he has deceptive speed and the same uncanny vision to find openings that Abney had.

"I've always been able to return kicks," Lyons said. "My freshman year in high school I took my first one on the one-yard line and almost took it all the way back before getting stopped by the kicker after 89 yards. I just catch the ball and run toward the end zone. I look for an open hole and take it. It's not complicated.

"I'm glad coach Brooks has big expectations for me. It doesn't bother me. Put me out there as soon as possible and I'll do what I can do. Hopefully, it will be good enough to help us beat Louisville."

Eleven kickoffs and four punts for touchdowns

He returned 11 kickoffs and four punts for touchdowns during his prep career. As a senior, he averaged 42 yards per kickoff return and 19 yards per punt return.

Other than a sprained ankle when practice started, Lyons has enjoyed his time here.

"My favorite thing here in the whole world would have to be the weather," he said. "Coming from New Orleans where it is 110 degrees every day in the summer, I love it here. I can run all day."

Even though he misses Cajun food, especially crawfish, he has found one Lexington restaurant that has some dishes to whet his Cajun appetite.

He's worked with injured UK receiver Tommy Cook and sophomore receiver Keenan Burton on his pass receiving skills.

"Tommy has helped me learn the system more than anybody," Lyons said.

He caught 53 passes for 1,027 yards, a 19.4 yard average, and 16 touchdowns his senior season. But he doesn't consider himself a threat to take playing time away from UK's more experienced receivers.

"I like playing receiver, but what I do best is return kicks," Lyons said. "I understand my role."

He also quickly learned to understand what his name means in the Bluegrass. He used to go by Richard Lyons, then Dick Lyons. However, he decided before he came to UK that he would go by Dicky Lyons Jr.

"I went to get a haircut after I got here and told some old guy my name. He said, 'I love you son. I watched your dad play.' Everywhere I go I hear it from anybody over age 35," Lyons said. "It doesn't bother me. It just lets me know my father was a hell of a player. It's a little motivation and let's me know what I need to do."

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