Cyclones prepare for Sooners

Tommy Birch

Cyclone defensive end Christopher Lyle’s football career started on a high school basketball court.

Now, he’s preparing for the No. 4 team in the country, the Oklahoma Sooners.

Lyle, a 6-foot-4-inch defensive end from Waldorf, Md., was recruited by his high school coaches to play football during a physical education class when teachers watched the then-260-pound junior slam down a dunk.

“He moved very well and for a big kid, he seemed to be very athletic,” said Westlake football coach and PE teacher Dominic Zaccarelli. “Obviously it peaked our interest, so we talked to him about playing football.”

Zaccarelli wasn’t the only one who took notice as Lyle decided to come out for the team. In his only year of high school football, he was used as a tight end and defensive end and was impressive enough to draw interest from schools across the country, mainly from the University of Akron. But after only one year, Lyle was still learning.

“I wasn’t used to hitting people and stuff so I had to get used to that,” Lyle said.

Lyle didn’t just learn to hit – he learned to block, defend and run in pads, and earned a scholarship to Butler Community College. After redshirting one season, he contributed the following year with eight sacks and 31 tackles and returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown. His play drew interest from a number of schools including Louisville and Arkansas, but Lyle decided on Iowa State after visiting with new Cyclones coach Gene Chizik.

“What I got from other schools is that after you’re done with playing football here, we don’t want to see you again,” he said. “What I got from [Chizik] was more of a family atmosphere, and so that’s why I chose Iowa State.

Seven games into the Cyclones’ season, Lyle is still learning the ropes of not just college football, but the game in general.

“I think game-by-game he’s getting better and he’s understanding what the league is about a little bit more as we go,” Chizik said.

Although the junior is still getting acquainted with football, he’s made some big splashes. Lyle’s fourth-quarter field goal block against Iowa helped preserve a 2-point lead as the Cyclones eventually defeated the Hawkeyes 15-13.

For the season, he has three solo tackles and assisted on three more. Still, he sees more work to be done.

“I’m more known now because I blocked the field goal, but I’m not where I want to be at yet,” Lyle said.

Where that could be, the coaches don’t even know.

“If he continues to work hard, he might get a shot at the next level,” Zaccarelli said. “He’s just got to continue to develop his game because he’s still a newbie at it.”

On Saturday, he’ll get a shot to take his game to a new level when the No. 4 Sooners come to Ames.

“I’m prepared for anything,” Lyle said. “Whatever they throw at us, I’ll take it, take it in stride.”