"We went to Disney World on spring break and on the way back we stopped in Gainesville. Teresa (his wife) has always loved Florida and the Gators, so we stopped in the campus bookstore on the Wednesday after the championship game (on Monday)," Lyons said. "T.J. was convinced we would see (Final Four MVP) Joakim Noah or one of the other players."
Guess what? The youngster was right.
"After about 30 minutes of browsing, this young guy with the boy next door look and a smile as big as Florida walked by us. T.J. looked at me and said, 'Dad, that's Lee Humphrey!' He went into the dining area for lunch and after we bought our stuff T.J. and Elizabeth went over and talked with him," Richie Lyons said. "They got his autograph and took a picture with him."
That wasn't all they did. The Lyons just happened to have a copy of The Advocate-Messenger with them. Teresa Lyons asked Humphrey, who had been celebrating a national championship victory less than 48 hours ago, to pose with the children and paper so it could be used in the newspaper travel promotion.
Player said it was right thing to do
"I don't think it hurt that we told him Elizabeth picked the Gators all the way, but he was very nice to the kids. He also got a kick out of us being from Kentucky," Richie Lyons said. "I don't know if he was actually going to class that day, but he had his backpack with him and it looked like it. I was impressed because he got back the day before and was going to the White House the next day."
Humphrey insisted Wednesday that he was going to class just like he did every other day. He also insisted talking to the children and posing for the pictures was something he should have done.
It was exciting for me, too. It was an honor they would ask me for a picture and autograph," Humphrey said.
It didn't hurt that Humphrey remembers how much he admired Tennessee athletes when he was the same ages as T.J. and Elizabeth Lyons when he was growing up in Knoxville.
"I remember when I was their age and looking up to the Tennessee guys. I remember getting a ticket on second row one game and sticking out my hand and having (Tennessee players) Vincent Yarborough and Charles Hathaway giving me a high five. I remember what it was like to be their age and look up to college athletes.
"You should be humble. They are both just as important as I am. It was important for me to spend a few minutes with them and let them see that college athletes are no different than them."
What if T.J. and Elizabeth Lyons could get close enough to the court on Feb. 10 when the Gators visit Rupp Arena to get Humphrey's attention?
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"If they holler at me and if I can get over there without getting in trouble, I will give them a high five," Humphrey said. "It's tough at games to see people, but all our guys do a good job if somebody comes up for an autograph or picture out away from the arena. We want to be accessible."
Still, what were the odds of a college basketball player from Knoxville winning a national title at Florida and then posing less than two days later for a picture with Kentucky fans?
"I never really thought I would be taking my picture with Kentucky fans of any age. They might have taken some heat for that back in Kentucky," Humphrey said.
Instead, Richie Lyons recalls reading where former Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson says his biggest regret was not recruiting Humphrey.
"I would have to agree with him. We are big Lee Humphrey fans," Lyons said.
Apparently, they aren't alone.
"I do a lot with FCA and my church, but I've had so many more people request for me to come and speak since we won the national championship," Humphrey said. "The national title gives me more influence than I would have had if we had a bad season.
"It's the same message I've always had, but I have a lot more opportunities to share that message now."