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