Wayne Lyons is tucked away in the heart of Florida football.
A standout safety at Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale, Lyons suits up just north of Miami and across the county border from FIU. Florida and Florida State are both up I-75.
Add the plethora of high school programs in south Florida into the mix and the result is a football factory matched by only a few places in the country.
“I wouldn’t want to grow up playing anywhere else,” Lyons said. “You get to know everyone from growing up and playing against each other so much. The atmosphere is just not like anywhere else.”
Lyons’ mother attended Florida, giving Gator fans an initial feel of having one-upped the competition. Yet in a race that includes 43 universities that have extended scholarship offers, the decision from the nation’s No. 7 ranked safety won’t come without much thought and deliberation.
This summer Lyons plans to make a number of road trips to both participate in team camps and tour college campuses. During his senior season in the fall, Lyons will take all five of his official visits.
To narrow the scope in the meantime, Lyons will trim nearly two-thirds of his list away.
“I want to get it down to 15 teams at most,” he said. “I have talked with my mom and the coaches and we think it’s the best thing. I am going to go ahead and narrow it down after the spring.”
To ensure that LSU makes the initial cut, Gonzales made both a visit to Lyons and the Dillard High coaching staff.
“Coach G came by here and checked me out, and when he ran into me the first thing he said was how much bigger I looked,” said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Lyons. “I know coach G gets more excited about recruiting me after every time we talk.
“When LSU offered a couple of months back I had said to my mom that I hoped that the staff started to build a relationship,” he added. “Coach G came through and has been talking with me ever since. The fact that he is from Florida and coached here helps a lot. It’s a great mix for me.”
One of Dillard’s biggest rivals on Friday nights, Ely High, produced another connection to LSU that Lyons finds appealing.
“Patrick Peterson is one of my favorites players, and every time he comes home he talks to me about LSU this and LSU that,” Lyons said. “I even call him up sometimes to ask him about the school. I have never been to Baton Rouge, and when I go he wants to take me out. Pat said that once he visited, he never wanted to leave.”
The connection to Peterson trickles down to his younger brother, Avery Johnson. A rising junior who suited up for Redemptorist High in Baton Rouge before returning home to Ely High, Johnson has picked up the connection where big brother left off.
“Avery and I played on the same 7-on-7 team, so we are pretty close too,” Lyons said. “I know he likes LSU and that the staff really likes him for next season. I’m not sure if he would commit right away, but I know that he is definitely a playmaker.”
Thanks to all the avenues that have connected LSU to Lyons, the Dillard High star said that not only were the Tigers a lock to make his new list after the spring, they were also already on his schedule for a visit.
“It’s going to happen either at camp this summer or during an official this season,” he said. “Either way, I told the coaches I would get to Louisiana at some point. LSU is definitely one of the top schools that I still want to see in person.”
Alabama and Southern Cal also paid visits to Lyons over the past week, proving that strong work on the field and the classroom can produce big results.
With 75 tackles and six forced fumbles to go with a 4.8 GPA and 22 ACT, the Sunshine State product is one of the most well-rounded prospects in the 2011 class.
The ultimate goal, however, is still in the distance.
“All of this work is me trying to reach my goal of playing in the NFL,” Lyons said. “That’s why I look up to a player like Pat and guys like Eric Berry. I want to work hard enough to be one of the top players in the country even when I am not a senior.”