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Penn State pledge Jameial Lyons proves ‘best in PA stay in PA’

Penn State pledge Jameial Lyons proves ‘best in PA stay in PA’
Four-star edge rusher Jameial Lyons is headed to Penn State next fall. If not for his coach's idea, things might not have played out as such. (Courtesy: @jameiallyons/Instagram)

PHILADELPHIA (BVM) — When his previous high school shut its doors after 2021, Roman Catholic’s Jameial Lyons thought his chances of playing at the next level were shot.

Turns out, with the plans Cahillite coach Rick Prete had for him, they were about to skyrocket. 

Lyons, now a four-star commit to Penn State, played every position but offensive line before arriving at Roman. He was uprooted after Wyncote’s Bishop McDevitt High School closed down, left with his pick of another archdiocese school.

But he wasn’t sure what to think about his future in the sport.

“I kind of felt like the football dream was over, not gonna lie,” Lyons said.

Prete had a vision, though — one that would prime Lyons for a bigger stage.

“He told me that, if I wasn’t playing D-line, then I couldn’t come to Roman,” Lyons recalled. “At first, I had a problem with it … At the time, I was around 185 (pounds), so I don’t want to say I was scared, but I was shocked. 

“I was trying to run from the position.”

With Lyons’ length, Prete could see why he was previously being dropped into coverage. With his frame, however, it made more sense for him to play on the line of scrimmage.

Not that it came without its hiccups. For the senior edge rusher, it was — and still is, for that matter — a learning curve. Watching things play out from 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage was a whole lot easier than going toe-to-toe with stout linemen.

“It’s different guarding a shifty wide receiver and trying to come down and make tackles as the running back has the ball,” Lyons said. “The first couple months, I got bullied, I’m not going to lie. I got blocked by a couple of people.

“I feel like it made me better as a player. It fixed my mentality and made me want to go harder.”

Schools such as Pitt, West Virginia, and Nebraska began to show serious interest.

“When he started picking up his offers, I told him, like, ‘See, this is what we spoke about with you playing in the right position,’” Prete said.

Now that he’s putting it all together, Lyons is a physically dominant presence with a knack for the football.

“I think people that are his size should not be able to do the things that he does,” Prete said. “He’s one of the faster kids on our team. And that says a lot to be pushing 6-5 and 260 pounds.

“He’s a special player that you have to account for. Even when you account for him, I think special players still get it done.”

Lyons’s coaches thought highly enough of him to name him a team captain early in the offseason. Through the first five weeks of this season, Lyons has a team-high 25 tackles, eight of which were for a loss. Any praise that comes his way is well deserved.

“He accepted everything that we put in front of him as far as the weight room and really taking that serious,” Prete said. “All we’ve kind of done as a staff was say, ‘This is how you impact the game the best for us. We’re going to put you in that five-tech.’

“Most of it is him.”

In terms of Lyons’ sheer athleticism, Prete calls to mind two plays in particular. There was a fourth-and-short play in the Cahillite’s opener this season, against Wilson, that caught his attention.

“They got a pretty big guy under center and you would think that one yard is a given,” Prete said. “There’s some different things we do with Jameial as far as moving him up and down the line of scrimmage.”

This time, he got set in front of the guard.

“Where Jameial did some special stuff on that play was, he kind of just split the block, and stuck out one arm,” Prete said. “He just wrapped the kid up and stuffed him.”

Against La Salle College High School last year, Lyons picked off a slant pass from his spot on the edge.

“It was one of the freakiest things I’ve ever seen,” Prete said. “The funny thing about that is, he’s done that on multiple occasions … It’s hard to throw perimeter stuff on him. If he doesn’t get home, he understands getting his hands up. He’s got elite ball skills.”

As for his decision to pledge to the Nittany Lions, Lyons wanted to prove himself nearby. But not for the reasons you would think.

“It wasn’t because it was three hours away,” he said. “It wasn’t because I’m a momma’s boy. Coach Franklin told me the best in PA stay in PA. That stuck with me the whole way. To me, it’s more than just a saying. I think there’s a deeper meaning to that.”

His coach had the same sort of mindset.

“I’m kind of old-school where you’re a Pennsylvania guy and you’ve got a chance to play at Penn State,” Prete said. “That’s a tremendous opportunity.”