Had it not been for Pac-Man, Wes Lyons would have never been a Mountaineer.
No, not Pacman Jones, the arcade game.
“When I was being recruited, there would be literally seven coaches from West Virginia in my house,” Lyons said. “We literally played video games. We played Pac-Man. My dad had these big arcade games and they’d call me up and challenge me before they came.”
It was through that bond with the coaching staff that the 6-foot-9 receiver from Pittsburgh decided to bring his talents to the Mountain State.
On Saturday, Lyons was at The Resort at Glade Springs giving back.
Lyons was the keynote speaker for the regional kick-off event for the youth-led tobacco prevention program, Raze.
“Raze teaches teens and adult advisors activities to keep people from using tobacco products,” Spring Valley student amd Raze Teen Advisory Council member Jason Nichols said. “Smoking, second hand smoke and smokeless tobacco are major problems in this area.”
That’s why Lyons, who recently released his first book, was brought in to help.
“I’m here to help these kids be tobacco-free,” he said. “I wanted to deliver a message to the kids that will hopefully help them stay tobacco free.”
Being tobacco free helped Lyons reach his goal of playing football at the collegiate and professional level.
“You have to be at your best if you want to play, especially at that level,” said Lyons. “Being tobacco free is one of the first steps to being your best. I advise all of the kids if they want to be good at whatever — being a doctor, a lawyer or whatever — to just focus and do their best, and being tobacco free can really help them become their best.”
Lyons, a 2010 graduate, spoke to over 200 middle and high school students from 15 counties about pursuing their goals through his three steps: Being positive, planning and persistence.
Lyons told the captive audience how he reached his goal of playing professional football for the Pittsburgh Steelers through following those steps.
Lyons, who went undrafted, had decided his ticket to the NFL was to train with and impress Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He managed to find the facility where Big Ben was training during his 5-game suspension, and waited outside for the Super Bowl winning quarterback.
“I showed up with a snack and a Gatorade at 8 a.m. and waited,” Lyons said. “But after 10 hours, Ben didn’t come.”
Lyons went back to training and was eventually brought in for a workout. After trying for several weeks, Lyons eventually signed with the Steelers after preparing a video of his training and highlights.
Shortly after signing with the Steelers, Lyons received a text from Roethlisberger welcoming him to the team.
“It was during the lockout when players couldn’t be in contact with coaches and I received a text from Big Ben,” Lyons told the students. “It said ‘I’m excited to work with you.’ And that’s when I realized I had made it.”
The positive energy that Lyons brought to the room was noticeable, but it was something he picked up from his former coach.
“I just take coach (Bill) Stewart’s passion with me everywhere,” Lyons said. “He was a passionate guy. Even with that ‘Leave No Doubt’ speech, he was very passionate. I just took that mentality and applied it to anything that I’m doing. I’m very passionate about coming in here and speaking to the kids. I’m passionate about playing football. I’m passionate about West Virginia the state, so if I can do anything to help, I’m willing and I will be there to help.”
Lyons may be a few years removed from the confines of Mountaineer Field, but he did have plenty to say about his former home.
“The atmosphere, it’s an irreplaceable atmosphere, it doesn’t get any better,” Lyons, who was recruited by West Virginia, Pitt and Ohio State said. “You don’t get any better than Mountaineer field — Ohio State is nice. It’s nice there — but the tight knit community that the players have with the fans and the coaches is incredible.
“West Virginians are passionate about their WVU football,” he added. “There’s no atmosphere like it. There’s no professional team in West Virginia and everybody loves the Mountaineers. Yea, Marshall’s here too, but everyone loves the Mountaineers. They would drive from all over. It’s an amazing feeling that I couldn’t pass up.”
Lyons also had plenty to say about the current program. His words for Mountaineer fans? Give the current team some time.
“Holgersen is young. He’s young at being a head coach and he’s developing. He’s also developing his players,” he said. “They’re a young team. Hopefully they continue to pull together and start to become a dynasty again and really get things rolling.”
Lyons’ book, The Pursuit with Patience is available for order through his website, WesleyLyons.com.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.