Up on stage in a cozy setting amongst family and friends at Crawford Grill at
Station Square in downtown Pittsburgh, Devon Lyons was introduced as the
"Man-of-the-hour" by a local sportscaster, Smokin' Jim Frazier, on
"He already has a body of an NFL player," said Frazier referring to the 6-4, 215 Lyons, "and I will guarantee you that one day he will be playing on Sunday."
After comments from his dad and mom, who were seated to each side of him and were adorned with Miami and Michigan garb, respectively, Lyons was presented with a trophy for being named the offensive player of the year in the WPIAL. Obviously setting a Pennsylvania state record for having a 33-yard average on 23 receptions with 14 of those going for touchdowns (of which he averaged 41yards/TD) had something to do with it.
"(Lyons is) maybe one of the greatest receivers to ever play in the state of Pennsylvania," Frazier said. "Keep ‘The Hope' alive!"
‘The Hope' is the alias by which Lyons goes by. Obviously many universities were hoping that Lyons chose their school as the place for him to continue catching passes at. But from a pared-down list that included Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State, Lyons was ready to select from his two finalists, Miami and Ohio State.
So after the obligatory thanks-you's from Lyons were delivered, he was ready to name his school.
"Now for the tough part, the decision that I had to make," Lyons said. "This decision was solely mine, but I had many people to consider because they are such a big portion of my life. The school I have chosen has the best of the qualities that I've decided to be important for the next four years of learning and development both in the classroom and on the field. The coaches made me feel like a member of their family and part of their team. After weighing the academic excellence, athletic department character and the other major factors that went into my decision, I've chosen the following place for the next four years..."
In the next instant, he reached below his seat and pulled out a homemade Ohio State jersey and he raised it to the crowd to a rousing ovation. Later, Lyons explained that he committed to OSU assistant Joe Daniels a couple of weeks ago in person and then to Jim Tressel on the telephone.
What gave the edge to the Buckeyes over the Hurricanes?
"I'd have to go with probably the coaches," Lyons said. "The coaching staff at Ohio State definitely made me feel like I fit in very well up there. They always seemed very excited when talking to me on the phone or even when they came in for visits. I just felt real good and I still do. I feel real good about my decision."
So actually how close was it between the two schools?
"Miami was real close," Lyons said. "They're a little far, and my mom might not have been able to make some of the games, but Ohio State, I think, is the best place before me. I just felt like I fit in there. I felt like that was my type of environment."
Although he admitted to having a strong affinity toward Miami -- his dad is a big Hurricane fan -- Lyons said it wasn't hard for him to resist the fatherly influences once he committed to Ohio State.
"Even with me getting it out of the way about two weeks ago, my dad was still definitely putting the pressure on me about Miami," Lyons said. "He called the coaches almost every day still. I talked to them a lot more than the Ohio State coaches because (Ohio State) was calling probably once a day while my dad was probably calling Miami twice a day. And then Miami put on a last minute push, they even called me while I was here, today, right before I announced. But I definitely feel that Ohio State fit me the best and it was the right decision.
"I love Miami actually. The campus and everything is beautiful down there. I just think, ‘Where would you go on vacation if you lived in Miami?' "
In the end, however, the lure of early playing time might have really swung it in OSU's favor. Mike Jenkins is graduating and so is Drew Carter, who suffered a mid-season knee injury and will not likely get another year of eligibility.
"Jenkins probably did most of the swaying. He's leaving and he's a
senior this year," said Lyons who officially visited Ohio State on the Dec.
12 weekend. "I think they only got one receiver coming back that played
last year and I think there's a good opportunity there."
Chris Gamble likely would have been another receiver coming back but he's leaving Ohio State a year early for the NFL.
"He didn't really play too much offense this past season," Lyons said. "Right now, I definitely prefer offense. That's my preference, but if I have to play defense, I'll play defense. But I want to play, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to do that. I've been working out ever since our season ended, and I'm just trying to come in physically ready at least. I think I can handle the mental part, but I want to come in physically ready."
By opting for Ohio State now, Lyons breaks the Woodland Hills' chain that saw two of their former Wolverines, Steve Breaston and Ryan Mundy, become Michigan Wolverines in successive seasons.
"Steve and Ryan called me a few times, and they didn't really pressure me to come up to Michigan or anything," Lyons said, "But they pointed out a lot of the good things and told me, really, to just go to the place where you feel the best."
And taking that one step further, Mundy is Lyons' first cousin.
"I talked to Ryan a lot toward the end of my decision, and I pretty much told him Ohio State was in the lead right then. I had already committed actually, but I was telling him Ohio State was in the lead," Lyons said. "He felt good for me too about my situation. He wanted me to make sure it was the place that I felt I fit in the best, and I definitely think so."
Now the family reunion can take place in the final weekend of November every year or thereabouts.
"That's definitely going to be a big rivalry now," Lyons said. "Ohio State and Michigan is always a big rivalry, but with my cousin being on the other team, I definitely am going to be showing him who's the big cousin now."
Realistically, Lyons hopes to make a bigger impact at Ohio State in his first year than either Mundy or Breaston did in their respective first seasons at Michigan.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the opportunity to play next year," he said. "If it happens, it happens, but I'm definitely trying to work hard this off-season and try to get ready to come in and play."
Sure it helps to be big and fast, but Lyons is confident in his overall ability.
"My best asset is probably my ability to go for the ball, just a knack to go for the football," he explained. "At the college level, speed isn't as much of a factor because everyone is real fast, so you've got to be able to go for the ball and make plays. That's what I think my biggest asset is."
Lyons' decision to be a Buckeye will become official on Feb. 4. Welcome to Ohio State.