Pelham’s Lyles, Peterson headed to Army West Point
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
PELHAM – In front of family, friends, teammates and family, two Pelham athletes got to experience one of the most special moments in life for any athlete on Wednesday, Feb. 4.
After both battled the grueling days of high school football for the last four years at Pelham High School, running back Dylan Peterson and defensive back Walker Lyles will remain teammates after signing their letters of intent to join Army West Point.
The day was even more special for the two after the trials and tribulations faced over the last year from COVID-19 throwing a new obstacle to hurdle to battling injuries suffered by both.
For Peterson, the talent has been there for the last three years, but after suffering a leg injury early in his junior season, he didn’t know if this day would come.
After totaling 538 yards and seven touchdowns on just 83 carries as a sophomore, Peterson started to gain attention in the recruiting world and was primed to be a 1,000-yard back the next two seasons.
With a frame of 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, that made the outlook for his future an exciting one. Set to be the lead back as a junior after a strong offseason of work and offers were starting to roll in.
But early in Pelham’s second game of the 2019 season, Peterson went down and missed the rest of the season.
At that point, Peterson couldn’t do much and had to watch as his junior season came and went in the blink of an eye without him able to contribute.
But the junior shifted into rehab mode, knowing that sulking wouldn’t get him back where he wanted to be, which was to prove he could come back and earn a college scholarship.
“The injury hurt me a lot,” he said before the season. “I couldn’t do much for a while, but I didn’t have to have surgery, which was good and now I have mobility back.”
He went on to say that he couldn’t wait to get on the field and prove everybody wrong and show what he was still capable of.
And he didn’t disappoint.
Peterson stepped back on the field and it was more than a feel-good story of him battling his way back to playing football as a senior; he became one of the state’s best running backs.
He remarkably came back to total 1,306 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 144 carries, which was good enough for 9.1 yards per carry.
Peterson finished third in the county in rushing behind only Oak Mountain’s Judah Tait (running back) and Evan Smith (quarterback), both of who had more carries in an option offense.
He also ran for more than 100 yards in eight games this season.
His efforts flew under the radar, but the senior running back had done enough going into the season to earn several offers, including one from Army West Point on July 15, 2020.
The Black Knights continued to push for him hard throughout the season, and on National Signing Day, Peterson had gone from wondering what the future would hold a year earlier to officially signing on the dotted line to play college football at Army.
He committed on Nov. 13, 2020, and officially signed on Feb. 4 alongside Lyles.
The decision became a little easier when he saw Lyles commit just days earlier on Nov. 8, knowing the two friends could join forces on both sides of the ball, and now that’s official.
Lyles had his own journey during his senior season, but it didn’t deter him from getting noticed by Army either.
Only playing in five games as a senior, Lyles didn’t get a ton of time to showcase his ability, but in the time he had, he capitalized.
The defensive back flew all over the field to total 15 tackles and three tackles for loss, but most importantly, he was one of the best at breaking up passes in the secondary.
He totaled 10 pass breakups during that five-game stretch, which was one of the best marks in the county this year despite playing half the games as most players.
That earned him an offer from the Black Knights on Nov. 2, and just six days later, Lyles committed.
But even after that, he had one more game to show what he is capable of at full strength, and he took advantage on Saturday, Dec. 19, in the state’s North-South All-Star game.
Lyles went on to total five tackles in the game, including a tackle for loss, had one pass breakup and nabbed an interception to put himself squarely as one of the best DBs in the game.
Now, the two Pelham Panthers will trade in their green and gold for black and gold, as Peterson and Lyles carry their story into the next chapter.
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