Charlie Strong said that former Auburn halfback Michael Dyer will sign a zero-tolerance behavior policy at Louisville.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Everybody knows the Michael Dyer Story. Other than Johnny What'sHisName, Dyer is the talk of college football. Dyer will leave his considerable baggage behind and practice with the University of Louisville football team Tuesday.
Strong said Dyer will sign a zero-tolerance behavior contract with him and try to keep finding holes without finding trouble.
"I understand this is a big one," Strong said.
But I wonder if Dyer understands that the Charlie Strong Story, the long version, is an even bigger one.
He certainly needs to know it – and not just the part about Strong coaching U of L to a thunderous Sugar Bowl victory over Florida and positioning the Cardinals for a Top Five push this season.
That part of the story – the football part – had to appeal to Dyer. Who wouldn't want join Teddy Bridgewater for a team that will be favored to win every game? No pain there. The heavy lifting is over.
But that's not the part of the story Dyer needs to remember. This is the important part:
Charlie Strong was 49 before he was rewarded with his first head coaching opportunity. For more than a decade, Strong could match nearly any coaching candidate credential for credential. Athletic directors were aware of the defenses Strong built, and that he hungered for an opportunity.
But Strong remained parked in Florida while lightweights like Mike Shula, Ron Zook and Lane Kiffin got the calls. Second chance? Strong couldn't get a first chance.
Skin color was a primary part of it. Strong wondered if the reason was because he was black and his wife was white. The administrative grapevine crackled with the word that Strong didn't interview well. Blah, blah, blah.
When I talked to Urban Meyer, Strong's good friend and former boss at Florida, about those days, Meyer said he began getting angry whenever Strong received a rejection.
Even Tom Jurich overlooked Strong once. He finally gave him the call – and job – in 2009 after Louisville was averaging less than 33,000 per game and could no longer beat Kentucky.
Strong has delivered.
Four years after nobody wanted him everybody loves Strong today. He disciplines his guys. He has little tolerance for nonsense. His teams deliver consistent effort.
The football world thinks Strong can coach on any campus. So far Strong has turned down Tennessee and other inquires to stay at Louisville.
The sensible play would be to stay away from Dyer. He left Auburn and was asked to leave Arkansas State, creating a trail of headlines involving guns and drugs, violating two core values pictured behind Strong's left shoulder whenever the coach addresses the media at the U of L football complex.
That's the play I would have made. Stick with Dominique Brown, Senorise Perry and his other backs.
That is not Strong's play. His play is to give Dyer a second chance, or actually his second second chance. Strong's play is to use some of the considerable good will he has earned during three seasons at Louisville and invest it in Dyer.
"If I was I was going to judge everyone just on core values, then my first year here I would not have had a football team," Strong said. Strong said that Dyer told him that he wanted to "clear his name."
Perhaps. But those guys were already part of his program. This is different. This is a guy that Strong is adding to a productive mix.
Dyer ran for more than 2,300 yards during two seasons at Auburn, hanging 177 yards on Ole Miss, 151 on Clemson and 141 on South Carolina. Never overlook that component to the story.
But Dyer could average 300 yards a game and hurt Strong if he makes one more knucklehead move. Strong argued on Monday that he does not expect another incident but cautioned that he isn't "a miracle worker."
Strong said that he talked extensively with Fitz Hill, Dyer's mentor at Arkansas Baptist College. They made the first contact with Strong in June.
He made another call to Dyer's uncle, Andre, a sergeant in the Little Rock police department. Andre Dyer interacts with troubled youths and was seriously injured after an incident during a traffic stop in 2007.
Gus Malzahn coached Dyer at Auburn and brought him to Arkansas State before dismissing him from that program. Malzahn told Strong to proceed. Strong proceeded.
"A lot of times when you weren't raised (to think of others), it's all about you," Strong said. "Then you don't really care about anyone else because you're going to always make it about you. But when you see that there's more than just you, there's other people that can help you, then take advantage of people that can help you."
U of L athletic director Tom Jurich gave his OK. Strong said he did not ask for approval from U of L president Dr. James Ramsey because Strong believes that he has earned Ramsey's trust.
Strong has earned that. Now it's up to Michael Dyer to respect the reputation and opportunities that Charlie Strong needed years to earn. I hope he understands the stakes.