Doc Harper: Michael Dyer Deserves Another Chance, Whether At Arkansas Or Elsewhere

 

Michael Dyer isn’t playing college football today, and there’s no one to blame but himself. (Poll below)

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In the landmark 1992 film The Mighty Ducks, star hockey player Adam Banks faces quite a quandry.

Banks was a hotshot player on a team full of punks, and he was just as big a part of his team’s persona as any other player. He bullied. He talked trash. He was a spoiled pretty boy whom the heroic Ducks dismissed as a “cake eater”.

Nobody was sitting around hoping he’d change teams. Nobody wanted anything to do with him other than beating him and his fellow villainous Hawks.

He was a jerk.

But it’s eventually discovered by the Ducks’ head coach that Banks had to be kicked off the Hawks because he lived in the wrong district.  And because the theme of the movie is “winning isn’t everything but it’s a hell of a lot more fun,” the Ducks’ coach makes an issue of the situation to the point that Banks must either join the Ducks or not play at all.

It’s Michael Dyer’s own fault that he’s not currently a member of a football team. And despite the PR campaign organized this year by Dyer and Dr. Fitz Hill, president of Arkansas Baptist College, he seems to be having a difficult time finding a suitor.

Dyer’s name resurfaced this weekend in a USA Today article in which he declared he’d turn down a scholarship from elsewhere for the chance to walk-on at Arkansas.  It was the second USA Today article about him in the last nine months.  Last week, Dyer was the focus of an article on ESPN.com by Joe Schad. Dyer first publicly discussed the thought of playing at Arkansas in an interview with local CBS affiliate KTHV in April.

Yet, no one seems to be knocking on that door. The mere mention of the possibility of Dyer playing at Arkansas sets off a heated debate among Razorback fans. Among all the local high school stars who chose to leave the state instead of becoming Hogs, none stir passions quite like Dyer.

Malzahn ChizikIt makes sense. There were a lot of hard feelings during his recruitment. It’s hard to look past the inflammatory, profane YouTube video and the “eff you” touchdown at the end of the 2010 Arkansas/Auburn game (a game in which Dyer largely sat out due to injury, until some combination of Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn decided he wasn’t too injured to carry the ball five times in the waning minutes).  The catharsis during Arkansas’ dominant 2011 victory over Auburn was real.

When Dyer was kicked off the Auburn team after 2011, and then off Arkansas State the next summer, you wouldn’t find much sympathy for him among Razorback fans. You’d be more likely to find, at least back then, fans reveling in his perceived comeuppance.

But nothing softens animosity like time and honest remorse. And whether or not Dyer’s remorse is honest is the key question to the way fans are approaching him today. Since Dyer didn’t play at Arkansas Baptist last fall, the only ways we’ve seen him are through these interviews. The only other thing we know is that Dyer sat out a year and earned an Associate’s Degree when he could have, like Tyrann Mathieu, just trained for a few months and entered this year’s NFL Draft.

Unfortunately for Dyer, many people are so conditioned, through sports, politics, and broader culture, to be skeptical of these sorts of profiles. We’d love to take Dyer at his word that he’s not the same guy who used drugs and carried a gun, and some people have, but not everybody.

That’s why Hill has gone on the record to support him. Hill, a former assistant on the Arkansas staff, has a sterling reputation in Arkansas and perhaps his word will help someone, Arkansas or otherwise, have the confidence to give Dyer a shot.

However, the only people they need to convince in Fayetteville are Bret Bielema and Jeff Long, and so far it appears they don’t feel Michael Dyer is worth the risk.

If that is Bielema’s stance, it’s certainly understandable. After spring practice, it’s hard to see where Dyer would even fit in amichael dyer at Arkansas State backfield headlined by Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, not to mention Kody Walker, Patrick Arinze, and Nate Holmes. Since Dyer hasn’t taken a snap since Arkansas State’s 2012 spring game, it’s unknown if he’s even as good as he was in 2010 and 2011. Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett was out of football for longer than Dyer, but Clarett, a star as a freshman, was never the same player after sitting out of football for a long time. Whether Dyer still possesses the speed, strength, and agility he showcased at Auburn is something any potential coach will have to determine.

My guess, and that’s all it is, is that we won’t see Dyer in a Razorback uniform. I believe that if Bielema and Long were interested in him, Dyer would already be there. That may or may not be the right decision, but it’s definitely the safe one, and I can’t fault Bielema for that.

Many of the seniors and redshirt juniors on this year’s Arkansas team were part of the recruiting class Dyer could have been a part of. It’s worth wondering if those players would even want him in the locker room. You can’t blame Arkansas for not wanting to deal with unnecessary drama.

But if I’m wrong and Arkansas did allow Michael Dyer to walk-on, I’d understand that as well. Obviously the best case scenario is for some sort of happy ending.  But even if it didn’t work out, it’s not some sort of huge loss. Malzahn still led Arkansas State to a conference championship after kicking Dyer off the team.

In the movie, Banks chose to play with the Ducks, and when he first humbly walked in the Ducks’ locker room, the tension was thick. He kept his head down, didn’t make any waves, and just played hockey. It took a while, but he eventually found a way to fit in within the team and played with them for a long time. Obviously, if Dyer really has changed, that’s the sort of path he could go down.

But, of course, this isn’t a Disney kids movie. I don’t know if Dyer will get another chance to play college football, and if he does, whether or not he’ll be able to behave in a way that proves he’s grown up. I hope he gets a chance somewhere.

If Bobby Petrino, over 30 years older than Dyer, can make all the mistakes he’s made as the leader of a program and still get a coaching job after sitting out a year, surely a college student like Michael Dyer can find his own fit at another program as well.

Doc Harper is a contributor to Sporting Life Arkansas and is the managing editor of Arkansas Expats. You can email him at heydocharper@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @doc_harper.

Should the Arkansas Razorbacks accept Michael Dyer as a walk-on this season? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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39 Responses to “Doc Harper: Michael Dyer Deserves Another Chance, Whether At Arkansas Or Elsewhere”

  1. NewYorkHogFan
    July 9, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    It seems that there is another angle to this. If Arkansas takes Dyer, what message does it send to high school players in the state? Could some feel that they can sign with another school, and if they later change their mind or it doesn’t work out, they can always come “home” and play? In life, we often don’t get second chances. Kids need to learn that there are consequences for their actions. Do I think that Dyer has matured? Yes. Is he a football talent? Definitely. I hope he gets to play again somewhere, but he burned his bridges at Arkansas.

    • Doc Harper
      July 9, 2013 at 11:50 am #

      I think it sends the message that if you learn from your mistakes, you don’t have to let the mistakes define you.

      I get it if Bielema and Long don’t want him. But I disagree with the notion that we don’t often get second chances in life. There are few things that you can’t come back from. I think he has learned that there are consequences. When he signed with Auburn in 2010, I doubt he thought he’d be at a Sun Belt school for spring practice in two years, and completely out of football last fall. If you believe he has matured and been humbled, then that’s a result of those consequences.

      But I don’t think Dyer’s mistakes were the type that should keep him blacklisted from football. UA has plenty of justification to make either choice, but as someone who’s always in favor of the best story, I don’t have a problem with them going for it.

    • JimmiR
      July 10, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      That is my concern. But is there forgiveness is sports, as in life. I hope so. Plenty of kids make mistakes, and if Dyer came to Arkansas, I am betting he could prove himself on and off the field. If we can’t say we can rehabilitate a young kid who took some wrong turns, why should anyone else in his position try?

      But i do understand why the Razorbacks won’t take him. It sends a clear message to in-state stars..”Once you leave, you’re gone” no matter what 5-star ranking you may have.

  2. Drew F.
    July 9, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    I don’t want him anywhere near the Razorback football team.

    • gohogsbill
      July 10, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

      A kid at 18 isn’t always the person he is at 21. So many that think he’s burn’t his bridges with the Hogs, but as for second chances we all get them if not not many kids would survive childhood because parents that don’t give second chances wouldn’t have any children. Patrino didn’t recruit Dryer very much and it might have been because he had heard some of the issues with him in high school. So the Auburn negative recruiting just fueled the fire and caused a lot of the issues he had with Dryer. If Dr. Fitz Hill says he has matured and learned from his mistakes, then his word is good enough for any that know him or his reputation. To be a walk-on and work with the scout team and earn anything he gets isn’t taking any chance at Ark. As most know in the SEC you can’t have to many good RBs. Let him be a HOG.

      • Drew F.
        July 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

        Dyer hasn’t been 18 since he was a junior in high school. He turned 20 less than a week after he played the Hogs in his freshman season at Auburn. He should have matured about 3 years ago.

        As for “second chances,” he’s already had it. He’s on his 4th or 5th chance at ths point. Let somebody else deal with that.

  3. khayne44
    July 9, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    I agree with NewYorkHogFan, he has burned his bridges with AR. Don’t need him, and don’t want him!

    • gohogsbill
      July 10, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

      Life is to short to hold grudges and SEC football season is way to short to turn down no risk 5 star MVP National Championship RB. On every team RBs go down if not out for the year because of injury.

  4. A-State Fan Rules
    July 9, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    I hope Arkansas puts him on the team.

  5. J. Frank Parnell
    July 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Let him work his way onto the team. If he screws up, cut him.

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