One of the most prominent concepts in sports that largely goes unnoticed is that truly amazing players have not only the most startling athleticism but also the killer instinct and unshakeable focus to make a complete athlete. If one were to find a player with one of these characteristics he might make a starter. A player with two of these qualities will be a star. However, players who have all three are special.
A prime example of this concept is Mike Tyson. Tyson had the power and athleticism that could drop almost anyone in the world with either hand and a killer instinct so strong that he could smell the fear in his opponent. What Tyson lacked was the focus throughout his career. After his trainer Cus D’Amato passed away Tyson appeared lost without the person who essentially raised him. When Tyson’s focus was gone his championships, wins, and paychecks soon followed.
Football is a different sport though than boxing. It asks different questions of its athletes. In a team game, teammates can pick up the slack and faults of other teammates, and this is done without complaining. Also, a teammate can pick up the team around him and take them to heights that had not been predicted. Players like Colt Lyerla tend to oscillate between these two positions.
Colt Lyerla is a player who represents the potential of superstardom. People crowd Autzen Stadium and when they see Colt Lyerla walk on the field they see someone who draws comparisons to Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. When wearing pads Colt Lyerla looks like a scary person. He’s 6’5" and 250 pounds. He’s fast and powerful and can jump out of pools. Can you imagine trying to tackle him in the open field? Opposing defenders are challenged with bringing down a player who is bigger than them, who can run over them, and who wants to run over them. Lyerla creates a mismatch against linebackers because he’s so fast and against defensive backs because he’s so big. He is part of the reason Oregon’s up-tempo works so well.
Lyerla plays football like the Hulk. Angry. I watch Colt Lyerla play football and I see a bull in a china shop. I see someone who is bigger, faster, and more determined than most people on the field. He will not only catch a pass despite contact but then run through the first defender for seven more yards while stiff-arming the second defender who tries to help.
Colt Lyerla 2012 Highlights (via madmike1951)
The Hulk is a superhero who is awe-inspiring because of the damage he can do. However, the Hulk’s rage can blind him and his effectiveness. What is harder to see as a fan without knowledge of play calling, and without being able to see practices regularly, is the mental side of the athlete. I’ll read articles in newspapers quoting the coaches citing frustration with Lyerla about missed assignments, a lack of conditioning, and just things that come with habit and focus.
Watching Colt Lyerla play is like getting to the end of American History X. You see something that is powerful, at times scary, but ultimately leaves you saying to yourself, "That was awesome and everything, but something was missing. I’m not entirely sure what, but that could have been better."
Watching Lyerla stretch the field vertically down the seam against Cal and Kansas State was new as an Oregon fan. Rarely had we seen Chip Kelly stretch the field vertically and the combination of Lyerla’s physical mismatches and Mariota’s touch on deep passes you get an exciting addition to the deadliest offense in college football. He’s got more in him though. It’s a pain to see someone show up late to camp and to tweet out borderline offensive conspiracy theories when it appears contrary to what we see on the field. College kids make mistakes and no one is perfect but it appears that some of the mistakes off the field are relatable to mistakes on the field.
I want Colt Lyerla to reach his fullest potential not only because he’s a tight end for Oregon, but because I want him to reach his fullest potential for himself. Some people see a freak of nature athlete playing football but I also see a player who is hitting 90%-95% of his potential in college. Don’t get me wrong, his 90% is better than most, which is seen in him being projected as a first round NFL draft pick.
Everyone has the feeling of not reaching their potential. Screenwriters feel that for some reason they are just missing one more layer to a character to make a scene dramatic. A recreational golfer wishes he could just get the right turn in his wrist to stop slicing the ball. A law student thinks that if he could just hold focus for an extra hour a day he could be a top ten student in his class. The pursuit of reaching one’s full potential is universal.
Watching Colt Lyerla you see an athlete who plays the sport of football violently. He drives hard for every yard and challenges the will of opposing defenders who attempt to bring him down. Lyerla easily has two of the three traits and he just needs the focus to become a special player. Colt Lyerla has the potential to be special and I hope not only for the Oregon Ducks football team, but also for Lyerla, that he can be the special player that everyone knows he can be. That is why I watch.