The troubling story of Colt Lyerla added another chapter on Sunday, as Tigard police arrested the former Oregon star for heroin possession.
Lyerla starred at Hillsboro High School, becoming one of the top recruits in the country, before eventually taking his talents to the University of Oregon. Expectations for Lyerla were sky high while he was in Eugene, and while he showed glimpses of his star power, off the field issues derailed his career.
Lyerla played in 15 games his first two seasons at Oregon, amassing 469 yards from scrimmage to go with seven touchdowns. He was expected to see an expanded role and be a key cog for the Ducks his junior year, but that is where the wheels started to fall off.
After playing poorly in the first two games of 2013, Lyerla missed a key game vs. Tennessee due to “circumstances.” The circumstances weren’t clear, but it was clear that Lyerla was falling out of favor within the Oregon program. He was later suspended for a violation of team rules, and shortly thereafter announced he was leaving the program for “personal reasons.”
Just weeks after leaving the program Lyerla was arrested on charges of cocaine possession, a charge he would plead guilty to in order to pursue his NFL dream.
However, the cocaine charge was in the forefront of the minds of every NFL GM as the 2014 draft approached.
Prior to the draft, Lyerla discussed his past with Chase Goodbread of College Football 24/7:
Lyerla's troubled timeline is a lengthy one. He was dismissed from the Oregon football team in October for an unspecified team rules violation. On Thursday, he left it unspecified, but let on that it was no small matter to him personally.
"I can't really say too much about that, but it's something I deeply, deeply regret and it's a mistake I'll have to live with the rest of my life," he said.
That wasn't the only issue Lyerla has dealt with. Weeks after his dismissal, Lyerla was arrested for cocaine possession when police witnessed him using the drug in his car. He later ran from police, compounding his troubles, when they attempted to continue the investigation at his residence. Lyerla spent a day in jail and another nine days working on a road crew.
"That was huge for me," he said. "It gave me a lot of time to self-reflect and realize that's a place I never want to be again."
Lyerla sounded remorsefull, but his past was too much to overcome. Lyerla went undrafted, but was eventually signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent. Lyerla impressed during Packers camp, drawing comparisons to Rob Gronkowski, but it all came crumbling down. During a team practice Lyerla tore his PCL and MCL, and later reached a settlement for his release in August of 2014. Many experts thought the move was just a hiccup. A chance for the Packers to free up cap space and a roster spot, then bring Lyerla back when he was healthy. These thoughts never materialized. Due in large part to his off the field issues, Lyerla would never wear an NFL uniform again.
Lyerla was arrested on suspicion of DUI in September of that same year, as his off the field struggled continued.
Lyerla stayed out of the news until November of 2015, but this time it was good news, and it looked like the troubled star had finally found the right path.
The Arena Football League came knocking on his door, and his hometown Portland Steel signed him to a contract. The first game of the season saw an electric Moda Center crowd cheering on the former hometown hero, and Lyerla himself said “it feels good to be the hometown kid.” But this feeling, too, was short lived. In week two against the Orlando Predators Lyerla injured his shoulder, and was subsequently put on the IR.
As Lyerla said in 2014, he never wanted to be in a bad place again. Unfortunately, he didn’t listen to his own advice. Another lost football job resulted in another run in with the law for Lyerla. The story has grown dull. Lyerla has been arrested enough time now that it is almost non-news. But for some reason, he resonates with us. Maybe it is because he was the hometown kid we all rooted for. Maybe it is because he was the Oregon Duck we all wanted to see at the next level. Or maybe we continue to pay attention because of how sad the story is: A man with the talent to be the best couldn't get out of his own way.
The heroin arrest last Sunday may be the final nail in the coffin for Lyerla. If it wasn’t already, the NFL dream is certainly dead. With cocaine and heroin on his record, he will probably never see the AFL again, either. The only career he has sustained up to this point is that of a career criminal.
For the sake of Lyerla and all those who love and root for him, let’s hope this career fizzles out like the rest.