Gorman: Lyons not your average 'Joe'
When Devon Lyons went from Woodland Hills wunderkind to overlooked at Ohio State, he was ready to accept that his dream of playing pro football was over, and he was destined for the business world.
Lyons' once-promising career was sidetracked by a broken left foot one year, a broken collarbone the next and, after earning MVP honors in the spring game, a torn hamstring that caused him to call it quits.
There was a part of Lyons who wanted to prove he could play, especially to those in his hometown who he admits "probably thought I disappeared, fell off the radar." And there was a part that wanted to show that he wasn't so much a bust as someone who was betrayed by his 6-foot-4, 220-pound body.
"It's a little bit of both," Lyons said. "I've been competing in football since I was 5. You never lose that ambition."
That's when reality set in.
Make that reality television.
Lyons took a chance by applying last year for Michael Irvin's reality show, "4th and Long," which offered its winner the final spot on the Dallas Cowboys' training camp roster. Although Lyons didn't make the final cut - the winner, receiver Jesse Holley, was signed to their practice squad - the casting director was an Ohio State graduate who remembered Lyons as a highly ranked recruit who played receiver for the Buckeyes as a freshman before his career was plagued by injuries.
When D.J. Feldman was looking for contestants for the Spike TV show "Pros vs. Joes," he recommended Lyons to its producers.
"He has the skills and the personality for TV," Feldman said of Lyons, who made ESPN highlights last summer by catching a long touchdown pass from Shaquille O'Neal on the reality show "Shaq Vs." at Ambridge. "He's a character. Nobody will want to watch if nobody is talking. That jumps out to us. He's funny. As far as his talent, ... his episode showcases that, as well."
Lyons starred in the Pros vs. Joes season finale - set to air on Sept. 8, one day after his 24th birthday - against a team that featured NFL retirees in quarterback Jeff Garcia, receiver Isaac Bruce and former North Hills and Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington, all selected to multiple Pro Bowls.
Not that Lyons was ready for a LaVar Leap.
"It was kind of funny because they don't tell you who the Pros are until you are on the field," Lyons said. "LaVar is a legend in Pittsburgh. It shocked me, but I was up for the challenge. We had it going on because we're both from Western Pennsylvania and rival high schools, so there was a lot of trash talk."
What differentiates Lyons from his Joes teammates — former Northeastern quarterback Shawn Brady and former Lambuth cornerback Antomius Wise — and those who will play for the Arena Football League coming to Consol Energy Center is that he's no longer clinging to an NFL dream.
After watching his former high school teammates Steve Breaston and Ryan Mundy square off in Super Bowl XLIII for the Arizona Cardinals and Steelers, Lyons understands the level of sacrifice it takes to make the NFL and is content with being a Northeast Ohio territory representative for 3M.
"For a long time, I thought getting to the NFL was the only way to be successful, to get rich," Lyons said. "But you can transfer that work ethic and dedication to the business world and reach the same heights."
That's not to say Lyons isn't enjoying his moment of fame.
Word is, he got the best of the 37-year-old Bruce, who finished his 16-year NFL career with more than 1,000 receptions and a Super Bowl ring.
"I'm not allowed to say the result," Lyons said, "but you get $10,000 for winning, and I'm not broke."
Spoken like someone who isn't your average Joe.