At Hillsboro (Ore.) High School, Lyerla was one of the nation's hot recruits as an all-state running back and linebacker. He stayed in-state and landed at Oregon, where he played immediately. Of his seven catches as a true freshman in 2011, he turned five into touchdowns. He moved into the starting lineup midway through his sophomore season and caught 25 passes for 392 yards and six touchdowns.
However, his career went far, far off track. In March 2013, he Tweeted that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a government conspiracy. Four games into the 2013 season, he left the program — calling it a mutual decision between himself and the new coaching staff. Later, he was arrested for cocaine possession, leading to a sentence that included one day in jail.
With that as a backdrop, arguably the most athletic tight end in the draft not only went undrafted but unsigned in college free agency. On Friday and Saturday, Lyerla is simply one of 28 tryout players hoping to earn a contract and a shot to impress during the offseason workouts and training camp.
"As much as I hate to say it," Lyerla said at the Scouting Combine, "I think some of the mishaps that happened and me getting in trouble probably is the best thing that's happened to me because it really put me at a point in 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 entered the draft as one of its most polarizing figures. From an athletic standpoint, he has the receiving skills teams are coveting in the new-wave faster, smaller tight ends that have become crucial for teams using the West Coast attacks.
His broad jump of 10 feet, 8 inches tied A.C. Leonard of Tennessee State for best in the group, while his 39-inch vertical jump not only led the tight ends, but was 4 inches better than the second-place finisher. Further research showed that his broad jump was tied for fourth-best for any tight end that attended the Scouting Combine since 2006. His vertical jump ranked seventh among those position participants since the 2006 event.
Moreover, as a high school senior, he broke the vertical leap and broad jump records at the 2010 National Underclassman Combine, with jumps of 40 inches and 10 feet, 10 inches, respectively.
However, his body of work never matched the athleticism. He started just 12 games in his two-plus seasons and averaged 1.21 receptions per game. In 2013, he caught just two passes through the first four games.
His potential is evident in what he did with his limited opportunities. Of his 34 receptions, 29 resulted in first downs, including 11 that went for touchdowns. He has also proven to be highly effective playing with the coverage units, as he delivered 12 tackles (nine solos) on only 35 plays on special-teams action.
"Really, Colt is just one of the 58 (players at the rookie camp)," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's done things in his college career and (we're) fully aware of everything that every prospect's done on and off the field and, with that, we feel he's earned the opportunity as a tryout player to earn a spot to go to training camp."
With the legal issues and his falling-out with Oregon's coaches — Lyerla was not allowed to participate at the school's pro day — NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas gave Lyerla a free agent grade. Before the draft, a scout from one team said the odds of Lyerla "wearing eight digits" (a prison number) were higher than Lyerla "wearing two digits" for his team.
Lyerla, who was not made available to reporters on Friday, was aware of the long odds during his Scouting Combine media session.
"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."
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