Former Ducks tight end Colt Lyerla was arrested last night for possession of cocaine and interfering with a police officer, just 17 days after leaving the team following a suspension for violation of team rules.
Before his season imploded, Lyerla was a John Mackey Award nominee and a potential first round draft pick. Mel Kiper of ESPN had rated him 20th, projecting him to be the second tight end taken after Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Measuring 6-5, 250 with 4.5 speed in the 40, Lyerla was an awesome physical specimen, a former 5-star recruit from Hillsboro High School who chose the Ducks in a national recruiting chase. As a high school junior he led his team to a state championship, rushing for over 1543 yards and scoring 39 touchdowns, the State 5A Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 and an Army All-American as a senior. In his first two seasons at Oregon the explosive but under-used wonder tantalized Oregon fans with highlight film plays, catching 32 passes, 11 of them going for touchdowns.
The former high school halfback also flashed his uncommon ability as an occasional bruising tailback for the Ducks, running over tacklers for 77 yards and 5.9 yards a carry in 2012, with one touchdown, an odd highlight on a mixed-up play that saw him carry quarterback Bryan Bennett into the end zone.
While fans and this website clamored for more Colt, there were constant rumors of trouble, discipline issues and a failure to conform during Lyerla’s Oregon career. Reports hinted that he was frequently late or absent, didn’t submit to structure, struggled with the playbook. The problems culminated in the disappointing beginning to his junior year, four dropped passes, missing the Tennessee game with illness and suspended for the Colorado game, left home by coaches for a violation of team rules.
On Sunday October 6th Lyerla announced he was leaving the team “on good terms.” The next day he withdrew from Oregon, stating he was focusing on preparing for the NFL Combine and the Draft.
Matt Miller of nfldraftscout.com reported that he signed with XL Sports Agency on October 17th, the agency that represents former Green Bay Packer Brandon Saine, Ricky Williams and Sammy Sosa, according to its website. As part of his agency agreement he would have been given money for training and expenses. Some of it he probably used to buy drugs.
The official release from the Lane County Sheriff’s Office:
On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, members of Lane County Interagency Narcotics Team (INET) arrested Colt Kelikoa Lyerla (a 20 year old male) for Unlawful Possession of Cocaine and Interfering with a Police Officer.
INET detectives were working an unrelated drug investigation in the 7th Avenue and Polk area in Eugene when they observed Lyerla in a parked vehicle snorting what appeared to be a white powdery substance. Lyerla was contacted by police and admitted to using and possessing cocaine. Detectives and Lyerla agreed to meet at Lyerla’s residence to continue the investigation. Once at the residence Lyerla ran from the vehicle into a nearby apartment. Lyerla was arrested when he emerged from the residence a short time later. He was transported and lodged in the Lane County Jail.
In his mugshot photo Colt Lyerla looks like a broken, lost soul. Snorting cocaine in a car and being arrested by police can be the low moment of his life, a spiral into hell and despair, or a beginning. The NFL is still possible for him. Tyrann Mathieu, The Honey Badger of LSU fame who busted out of the Tiger program after multiple drug suspensions, rehabbed, went through treatment, tested and trained well, and earned a 3rd-round selection in the draft. He’s currently starring for the Arizona Cardinals, one of the most dynamic rookies in the league.
The NFL, of course, is the least of Lyerla’s problems right now. He has to take stock, get treatment, get someone in his corner who will advise him and encourage him to change the path he’s taking. He has to find balance, hope, discipline and purpose. He has to begin the process of becoming a changed person in control of himself, his talents and his future.
The worst choice would be to continue lashing out and blaming others. The worst choice would be denial, excuses or more flirtations with death. Cocaine ruins lives and sometimes ends them. Colt Lyerla is an addict and his life is out of control. It isn’t hopeless. He still has a future and great ability, but the next few days are critical in determining where his life takes him.
Josh Huff said it best. When the reports were first coming out yesterday evening Huff tweeted, “God be with my former teammate!!!”
Huff, whose mother once attacked him with a two-by-four in an addiction-ravaged rage, understands the cost and the pain of a nightmare situation, and he has the rare peace of emerging at the other end. Duck fans have to wish the best for Colt Lyerla. The time for judging or vilifying him is past. He needs a fresh start, and the encouragement to win a bigger battle than a football game.