Inside the Decision

MONROEVILLE, Pa. – Wes Lyons' collegiate selection party rivaled that of his brother, Devon. Fortunately, it didn't turn out the same way.

Lyons selected West Virginia over Ohio State, his brother's school, after a myriad of delays and speeches – and even a fashion show. His party, at Moy's Cove, a Chinese, Polynesian and American eatery and bar (the owner has a background all three cultures), looked like that of a graduation. There were blue and gold balloons at one table and scarlet and gray at another.

Pennants from each school hung on the walls surrounding posters touting Lyons' great games and postseason honors. There were blown up newspaper articles, and even a pair of team hats for Ohio State and West Virginia.

There were no tip offs to any favorite, a balance ensured by Lyons' father, Wes Sr. He went through similar recruiting with Devon, who had four schools listed as finalists to Wes' two.

"I had told coach (Rich) Rodriguez and (OSU) coach (Jim) Tressel that I saw their programs as near mirror images," Lyons Sr. said. "They have quarterbacks in Pat White and Troy Smith that are running and throwing quarterbacks. They are similar in that they are two standup coaches who have fun with it and don't take it too seriously but can do what they need to. I had no problem letting my son play for either and felt comfortable with both staffs."

Tressel made a final visit to Lyons on Wednesday, and OSU wideouts coach and former WVU assistant Darrell Hazell went to Woodland Hills on Thursday. The late approach was the difference for Lyons.

"I really felt like I had made a connection with (WVU receivers) coach (Butch) Jones," Lyons said. "He was there the entire time. He came in about five times. It just seemed like he cared more, like they wanted me more. And Tony Gibson (WVU's Pennsylvania recruiter) did a great job."

The Buckeyes tried to convince Lyons he could immediately replace Santonio Holmes, the junior wideout who declared for the NFL draft. Holmes is seven inches shorter than the 6-6, 217-pound Lyons, however, and has a bit better speed than the 4.65 Lyons has run.

Another selling point for Lyons, Sr. was that West Virginia, in his view, had an easier road to the national championship.

"That's why you play, for a chance at a national title," he said. "The object is just to win. You're not responsible for your schedule. If somebody told you you could work for a long time and become a millionaire, or win the lottery, which would you choose? The bottom line: If you can get to a national championship easier, you take it. It's not West Virginia's fault teams left the Big East. You play what you're dealt."

When Lyons finally made his decision (we'll have another article detailing the entire event and some of the professional and collegiate athletes there) he held a microphone in the front of the room and reached into a black plastic bag. Turning his back, and pulled out a plain white shirt, slowly unfolding it to reveal an air-brushed "flying WV" on the front with his name and number (4, which he might get because Jahmile Addae has graduated) in blue and gold on the back. The Cove erupted with cheers from WVU faithful in attendance, and one fan pointed to his blue hat with the WV.

"I'm going to West Virginia!" he said. "I'll be Mountaineer. Yeah, yeah!"

Lyons then put on a white hat with a blue flying WV before posing with pictures with his family and fellow WVU recruit Anthony Leonard, whose McKeesport team upset Woodland Hills in the WPIAL finals.

"I didn't think he'd invite me all the way out here for nothing," Leonard said. "I want him to be happy wherever he goes, but I think he'll pick West Virginia."

The selection was the showcase of a Pittsburgh public access channel 21 sports television show, "Champions Live." It also involved brief segments on boxing, tennis, Steelers football and Penguins hockey, leading to the delay in Lyons' announcement. The show, which will be rebroadcast in early February, was delayed for 30 minutes until 7:30 p.m. because some of Lyons' family and friends had not yet arrived at the event.

"I think I can help West Virginia because when the teams stack with box with seven or eight people, I can be out there against smaller defensive backs," Lyons said. "With my height, Pat White can just throw it up downfield."

Lyons noted that on his highlight tape there were a lot of blocking clips, which might have impressed Jones and Rodriguez. Woodland Hills is, like most western PA school, mainly a running team. Lyons had just 21 catches for 441 yards in making the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's "Fabulous 22" team. He recorded 33 grabs for more than 600 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.

"I'm downfield blocking all the time," he said. "That's a big deal and why I want to get a bit bigger. My ideal weight is probably around 220, which is what I'd like to be at when I get into fall camp."

Lyons also had the chance to immediately play was attractive. He is listed as having a 36 inch vertical after his junior season, but says that is up to about 40 inches now. His squat has also increased from 350 to putting up more than 405 pounds several times. His junior stats list him as having a 225 pound bench press and 230 pound power clean. He reports a 3.0 GPA and a 740 SAT, with a retest date in June.

"I just wanted to go to the best place," Lyons said. "I felt I had a connection with the West Virginia coaches. They showed me a lot, a lot of time and attention."

An inside look at Lyons' wild bash, tomorrow at BlueGoldNews.com.


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