Colt Lyerla (USA Today Sports Images)
Lyerla is a former five-star high school prospect who landed at Oregon and showed his skills immediately by catching seven passes, five of them for touchdowns as a freshman. He added seven more scores (six receiving, one rushing) as a sophomore, earning honorable mention Pac-12 in 2012.
Everything pointed to a bust-out, sky's-the-limit junior season in 2013.
And that's when Lyerla's college career came crashing down. He left school in October for "personal reasons," and it later came out that Lyerla was charged with unlawful possession of cocaine, a charge to which he later pleaded guilty.
Lyerla said he has complied fully with the courts and that his legal issues have been resolved, but he would not answer specific questions about his drug use and said he prefers to keep the incident in the past.
"I'd rather not discuss that right now, but just everything from the time that those things that happened until now has been a complete change and I'm happy about it," he said. "I'm happy that I was able to get out of that situation."
NFL teams are well aware of the charges and certainly will pepper Lyerla with questions, as the media did Thursday. Lyerla said he has hit rock bottom, having spent a night in jail for his crime, and now is trying to focus on proving to NFL teams at the scouting combine that he has matured.
"I think the biggest thing for me is just to be honest and to show remorse where remorse is due and just do my best to prove that I've changed and I'm changing and I've matured since I made those mistakes," Lyerla said.
There was no hiding it: Lyerla fidgeted while he spoke and had a serious look on his face while he talked about his unclear future. Of the 15 or so questions he was asked on Thursday, only a few were football-related. Lyerla knows that even with all of his natural gifts, it's likely to be more of the same when he speaks with NFL teams about the situation he's trying to put behind him.
Lyerla believes, in a weird way, that his troubles actually have helped him prepare for this moment at the combine and beyond.
"As much as I hate to say it," Lyerla said, "I think some of the mishaps that happened and me getting in trouble probably [were] the best thing that [have] happened to me because [they] really put me at a point and place and gave me time to self-reflect and just really helped me realize exactly what I want out of life and what I need to do to get it."
Lyerla laments the fact that he has severed a lot of ties from college, and that includes relationships he once had with teammates and coaches. He has spoken to a few players recently, including Chicago Bears OG Kyle Long, but not many. He also hasn't kept in touch with former Ducks head coach Chip Kelly, who now is in the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I feel like me and Chip had a good player-coach relationship, and I'd love to play for the Eagles," he said, "so we'll see what happens."
Perhaps a banner workout this weekend can tilt the narrative a bit. Lyerla could test through the roof here, with good speed, natural hands and incredible explosion in his legs that once allowed him to jump onto a 62-inch box from a flat-footed start. In addition, Lyerla has lost 14 pounds since leaving the team after he played at around 255 this past season.
Lyerla also offers positional versatility — lining up at Oregon as an in-line tight end, flexed out wide and also lining up as a running back at times — that could boost his stock.
"I think that's one of the advantages I bring in this tight end group is versatility, and of course, I'd love to be able to do that for any team at the next level," he said. "But whatever the team needs me to do, I'll do it, whether that's special teams or just [being a] regular blocking tight end ... whatever it is, I'm going to do it."
His physical traits could tempt a team early on Day 2 of the NFL draft. But will Lyerla's past indiscretions knock him farther down?
"I'd say that I've put myself in a position where my back's against the wall, to a point that if I don't do everything perfect and the right way, that I won't be able to play football, let alone be successful in any shape and form," Lyerla said.
"All I can really say is it's something I deeply regret, and it's a mistake I'll have to live with for the rest of my life."
- - - - - - -
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Colt Lyerla