The Michael Dyer decision has weighed heavily on Charlie Strong’s mind since he received a phone call a couple of weeks ago from Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock. The caller was Fitz Hill, an old friend, a former football coach and the current President at the college.
“Fitz called and told he had a young man I might be interested in,” he said. “He never said his name in the beginning.”
Dyer wanted a chance to play football at the University of Louisville, taking responsibility for his trouble past, saying he would do anything possible for play for Charlie Strong. The UofL coach was familiar with the history and had some major reservations, among them the player’s involvement with drugs and guns.
“He told me, ‘Coach, I just want to clear my name and show people what type of person I am,'” said Strong.
“I told him, ‘Son, if that who you really are and you’re given an opportunity, will you take advantage of that opportunity?’ He said he would do anything to take advantage of the opportunity. I told him to let me think about it. If you’re looking to change your life, I want to help you (whether that includes football or not). I’m not going to make a decision today.
While Dyer’s plea obviously tugged at his heart, Strong was not making a quick decision. Over the next several days, the UofL coach would talk with every coach who had any connection with Myer, from his days at Little Rock Christian High School to coaches at Auburn University and Arkansas State. He also sat down with athletic director Tom Jurich to discuss the situation. Fitz Hill, in effect, had told Strong that his program was the only one he entrust with Dyer’s continued rehabilitation.
Strong ultimately accepted the challenge, offering Dyer a scholarship, explaining during his Monday press conference:
“We’ve all made mistakes or bad choices in our lives but somehow, some way, we were given another chance. I believe a worthy goal in life is to have positive impact on others … Accountability and responsibility are so key to the development of any player.
“I understand this is a big one. Michael had admitted to mistakes in the past. Whether it’s due to immaturity or bad choices, I can’t change his past but only hope to built on his future. I’m not a miracle worker but most of my staff has spent their lives helping young people mature and grow into young men. I hope the Louisville community will back me in giving Michael another chance.
“Michael Dyer will sign a behavior contract and there will be zero tolerance. But I will also give him every chance to be successful.”
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Strong took the opportunity to mention the case of Darius Ashley publicly for the first time. Ashley was suspended after his sophomore year for two DUI violations and never played football again. The UofL coach took him under his wing, however, and Ashley went on to graduate with a 3.0 grade average and later earned an MBA degree at UofL.
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The UofL coach introduced a set of “core values” when he assumed control of UofL football in 2009.
While he considers these to be basic principles, Strong said he also has to consider other factors. “If I had to depend solely on these core values, I wouldn’t have been able to field a football team in 2010,” he said.