Lyons celebrates College HOF selection

NEW YORK -- For former New York Jets defensive lineman Marty Lyons, Tuesday's press conference announcing that he and 15 others will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Dec. 6 couldn't have been a better combination of his football roots.

"It was more than special to play my entire career up here with the Jets and to have the announcement here in my backyard," said Lyons, who starred as a defensive tackle at Alabama from 1975-78. "I'll always be a Jet, always. I'll breathe green and white for the rest of my life but where it all started was at the University of Alabama in 1975. To now get recognized for everything I accomplished down there along with my teammates, It's very special to be recognized."

Lyons thanked those who helped along the way and reminisced about how Alabama shaped him into the player and person he became, as he was joined by fellow future inductees in ex-Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and ex-Miami defensive lineman Russell Maryland at the press conference at the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square.

Others being inducted include Deion Sanders (Florida State) and Eddie George (Ohio State).

"I never had the opportunity Russell had to play in a Super Bowl, so I look back on my four years at Alabama and am very grateful that I had that opportunity, that I met the friends and had the teammates that I had," Lyons said. I tell my kids there's nothing better in life than going to a college you're going to enjoy because it's going to build a strong foundation for you to build on. That's what I found at the University of Alabama from 1975 to 1978."

While Lyons might be better known in New York for his time as a Jet, as the team selected him 14th overall in the 1979 draft and he played 14 seasons for Gang Green and was a part of the famous New York Sack Exchange, on this day, it was all about the Crimson Tide.

In his four years with Alabama, his teams went 42-6, won four bowl games and a national championship in 1978. In his career, he had 202 tackles, 20 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries.

Lyons currently serves as a color analyst for the Jets on ESPN New York 1050, as well as being the Senior Vice President of Operations at LandTek Group, Inc., which specializes in constructing athletic fields. He resides in Smithtown, N.Y. and also runs the Marty Lyons Foundation, which tries to help fulfill wishes of terminally ill children from the age of three to 17.

Lyons, 54, thanked his former teammates for the support they provided him, especially Bob Baumhower, who he said took him under his wing in Tuscaloosa and taught Lyons how to do things the proper way.

He also spent plenty of time praising former Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant for the life lessons he taught his players. He recalled Bryant telling his players that there were four things for them to accomplish at Alabama: being proud of their family, be proud of their religion, receive an education, and if there is time, win some football games. He also praised the former coach for the accountability that he required from his teams.

"To play for Coach Bryant, you never really realized what it would mean for you and your family until years after the fact when you left the game," Lyons said. "It's those core values he taught you to implement on the football field that are the same ones that you are using in your life today."

With the recent destruction by the tornadoes ravaging homes and causing deaths in Alabama, Lyons didn't have those suffering far from his mind on Tuesday. He said "you're just empty, you're numb" when he sees what's happening and will be heading to Alabama Saturday to do a fundraiser.

As much as this moment honors Lyons for his achievement, he also wants it to be a moment for them to celebrate.

"Right now they're going through a very difficult time in their life with the devastating tornado," Lyons said of the Crimson Tide fans. "But come Dec. 6, I'm going to put them all on my back and we're going to get inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame."

Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.