With Dicky Lyons Jr. and other wideouts gorging the reps, Steve Johnson became antsy. A JUCO transfer, Johnson wasn't getting the exposure to NFL scouts he expected to get at Kentucky. The junior Lyons was catching the touchdowns, not the senior Johnson.
So being a good friend, Lyons advised Johnson to ask Kentucky's offensive coordinator for more playing time. Lyons figured it couldn't hurt his perch atop the receiving corps.
"All of a sudden they have a talk and we're splitting reps," Lyons laughed. "Maybe that wasn't the best idea."
Now Johnson is in Buffalo and Lyons is gunning for him. BuffaloFootballReport.com has learned that the speedy 5-foot-10 wide receiver is going to have a formal workout with the Bills on June 18. After injuring his knee during his senior year, Lyons' draft stock plummeted. He wasn't picked up by any team over draft weekend or through the post-draft purge for undrafted free agents.
But the knee is healed and his attitude is refreshed. Lyons is working out four hours a day — one hour for rehab, one hour for agility drills, one hour for field work and one hour for the weight room. After the unfortunate setback, he's on a mission to make it in the NFL. The job interview with Buffalo is his first shot. He also has a tryout scheduled with Atlanta.
Naturally, Lyons called Johnson when he received the invite. Johnson's head is on a swivel. The Bills receiver joked that "karma is out to get me."
"That's my guy and he's excited," Lyons said. "He wants me up there just as much as I want to be up there with him."
The biggest question the Bills need answered is how Lyons' knee has healed. He tore two ligaments in his knee against South Carolina in mid-October, ending his college career. At the time Lyons was leading the SEC in catches at the time, primed to dot the ‘I' on an ultra-productive career with the Wildcats.
In his previous two full years as a starter, Lyons caught 106 passes for 1,477 yards and 16 touchdowns. Lyons, the son of Kentucky legend Dicky Lyons Sr., consistently wiggled into open field for big gains in undoubtedly the most cutthroat conference of this generation.
When healthy, Dicky Lyons torched defenses in the SEC.
"The guys I played then are the guys I'll play now practically," Lyons said. "I know I've beat them before, so why can't I beat them at the next level?"
If the job interview goes well, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Lyons would join a loaded crop of receivers. With Terrell Owens on the board, it'll be a dog-eat-dog battle at training camp for roster spots. It's hard to see the team giving up on 2008 second-round pick James Hardy. With Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and Johnson still around, the odds would be against Lyons.
He's not worried. Lyons has a swagger atypical for undrafted underdogs. He speaks with punctual, matter-of-fact certainty. He's crashing into this workout head-first.
"I can find the mismatches in the defense," Lyons said. "I can go over the middle and do everything a slot receiver can do. If they're going to play man, I can take advantage of it and be a deep threat as well."
As for that knee? Lyons recently clocked in at 4.54 in the 40-yard dash. His best-ever time is 4.43. He's weeks beyond the arduous rehabilitation phase. At Deion Sanders' Prime U. training center, he is running routes against college cornerbacks and recapturing his mojo.
Lyons knew the knee injury that ended his senior season wrecked his draft status. Without teams seeing him up close, Lyons knows the perception is that he is nothing but undersized damaged goods.
But then he saw the New England Patriots take North Carolina's Brandon Tate in the third round. The hairs on the back of his neck rose. That chip on his shoulder inflated. Like him, Tate suffered a season-ending injury. Unlike him, a team took a chance on Tate.
"He went third round to the Patriots," Lyons recalled in his confident drawl. "I don't really know how long he played receiver but I know I had more yards…I think it's different when you're a short wide receiver. They see 6-foot-2 and see the body frame. I think they were scared that I was 5-10, run a 4.5 and am hurt."
It's been seven months since Lyons' injury. A lot of people tell him he can be Wes Welker or Brandon Stokely — a diminutive receiver that thrives in the slot. But Lyons doesn't want to be either of them. In fact, he's never tried to emulate any receiver in the game, never idolized anybody in pro football period. Part of the reason is that he played soccer — not football — as a skinny youth. And part of the reason is that Lyons wants to blaze his own trail.
"I want to be original," Lyons said. "I want to bring something that nobody else has ever brought to football at my position."
Confidence has always fueled Lyons. As a kid, he'd challenge others to races at the park. If someone got a stride past him, Lyons shoved him down. He had to win, by any means necessary.
Maybe Johnson should peer into his rear-view mirror. Maybe he was half-serious with his "karma" joke. In less than two weeks, Lyons will finally get a chance to showcase how far he's come since his injury. If he gets to stick around for training camp, Lyons is certain that he will he stay for good. After burning defensive backs in the SEC, he said he is "just as good if not better than half of the players" in the NFL.
Even though the Owens signing made Buffalo's receiving corps more log-jammed than I-90 at rush hour, Lyons knows T.O. could actually benefit him in the long haul.
"Like Steve said, ‘T.O.'s going to bring the cameras so you have the opportunity to show a lot of people what you can do.
"Whoever picks me up is getting a steal. I know that."
Tyler Dunne is the Publisher of BuffaloFootballReport.com and also writes for the Buffalo News, Olean Times Herald and Packer Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.----------------
--- See Lyons in action here.
--- Stay tuned to the BFR tomorrow for a feature on another prospect the Bills will give a workout to, Sacramento State linebacker Cyrus Mulitalo.