A Good Catch
Oct. 7, 2004
by Jonathan Price
If Dr. Frankenstein made a football player, he'd have made a tight end.
It's a combination only a mad scientist could love -- the size and strength of an offensive lineman, with the soft hands and speed of a wide receiver. Fortunately for Washington head coach Keith Gilbertson, finding a good tight end in modern times does not require a complex knowledge of human anatomy and surgical procedures -- you just have to know where to look.
When Gilbertson found senior Jon Lyon at L.A.'s Saddleback Community College in 2003, it was obvious that the Carmel, Calif., native already possessed all the qualities necessary to be a great tight end.
'You have to have an all-around game,' Lyon says. 'You have to be able to block defensive linemen like the offensive line does, yet be big and fast enough to go out and catch passes and break tackles. You have more responsibilities.'
Despite a 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame that makes him a natural for the game, Lyon hasn't always been focused on football. At Carmel High School, Lyon earned all-league honors on the baseball diamond, but as he progressed to better and better teams, Lyon found himself worn down by travel schedules that saw the team flying all over the country for tournaments and games.
'Our high school was real big on baseball,' he says. 'It got to the point where it was so competitive that it just burned me out. Football is a lot more fun.'
With speed developed from running the basepaths and the soft hands of a pitcher, Lyon spent his final two seasons at Carmel starring at the wide receiver position, where he quickly earned the attention of college recruiters. Feeling that he still needed to gain weight and further develop his game to be successful at the Division-I level, however, Lyon opted to attend Saddleback for two years.
'For a junior-college level, football was a pretty big deal down there,' he says. 'I played against a lot of really good guys, and still have a lot of friends from my team that are playing at Division-I schools. It was fun, and it was a good learning experience.'
After completing his degree at Saddleback, Lyon once again found himself with options. Upon looking at the tradition the Huskies have built at the tight end position, however -- the last seven UW starting tight ends have gone on to play in the NFL -- he knew where he wanted to go.
'There are all kinds of guys with pictures on the walls here that are just phenomenal, many of whom are still playing in the league,' he says. 'Playing in the Pac-10 is something that I have always wanted to do. It was far from home, but close enough that my parents could still see me play in California every now and then. The winning tradition out here is just amazing; I am glad to be a part of that.'
When starting tight end Joe Toledo suffered a foot injury in the season's second game, it was Lyon and sophomore Ben Bandel who stepped up in a big way, with Lyon's 17 catches and 231 yards each ranking third on the team. Only wide receivers Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick, both of whom rank among the Huskies top-10 all-time receivers in terms of catches and yards, were more productive than Lyon, who did it all while starting just two games during the season.
'After Joe got hurt, Ben and I would rotate -- he was getting the starts, but we would rotate almost every play,' he says. 'Ben was bigger than I was last year, so he was better at blocking, whereas the coaches would put me in there in most of the passing situations.'
With Toledo still working his way back from the injury, and Bandel sidelined to start the 2004 season, Lyon has found himself atop the depth chart for the Huskies' first five games. Even when Toledo returns to full strength, it's a good bet that Lyon will be used heavily in two-tight end sets, to take advantage of his soft hands and good speed.
'We have been running a lot of double tight end formations,' he says. 'We are all getting reps. We are just going to see where that takes us, but you can be sure to see all of us out on the field this year.'
At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Jon Lyon will be hard to miss.