FIU has waited three years for the kind of destructive, athletic game senior defensive tackle Darrian Dyson produced against Central Florida last Thursday.
It shows what happens when a prodigiously talented player and program don’t give up on each other.
Nobody has ever doubted Dyson’s athleticism. A shot putter and discus hurler in track at New Orleans Edna Karr High, he also, in an emergency, anchored a 1,600-meter relay team. He played third base and pitched in baseball (he says he throws a two-seam fastball).
Asked how high he got on his game-clinching field goal block Thursday, the former high school basketball player said, “To the rim.”
Dyson’s list of offers included Mississippi State and Colorado. With the help of New Orleans-area defensive tackle Isame Faciane, whom Dyson recalls facing when Edna Karr played Slidell in the 2009 state semifinals, FIU got Dyson to come to West Dade with teammate Leonard Washington and New Orleans Walker defensive lineman Marques Cheeks.
“FIU showed a great interest in me,” said Dyson, a sports management major. “They had a good academic program with the SAAC. Once I heard that and with the football team on the come-up, I thought it was a good place for me. All of us knowing we were going to be in the same school, we knew we had each other’s back.”
All three stayed after coach Mario Cristobal was fired and replaced by Ron Turner. Dyson had the most options of the three and didn’t consider following some others in transferring.
“Once I signed my letter of intent, I was FIU,” Dyson said.
Turner saw Dyson’s ability, too. He saw it enough to know he wasn’t seeing it enough. He thought Dyson was lazy, perhaps felt entitled because of his talent, and definitely 40 pounds overweight.
“He’s a force in there. When he comes off the ball with good pad level — he has great strength — he’s really tough to block,” Turner said. “The problem was, he’d get tired. He’d do it one play, maybe two. Then take six off. Then do it one, six off. Sometimes, take 20 off. Then, he’d play [standing up] high. There are times, I could’ve blocked him. The first year, watching film, he’d get driven back 10 yards.”
Despite the love of Cajun cooking common to Louisiana-raised football players and, he believes, pasta dishes being the best of his culinary repertoire, Dyson trimmed down over the past two seasons.
“He’s totally different all offseason, December all the way through,” Turner said. “Some guys can do that for a few weeks, but he’s maintained it all offseason. Spring ball, he had a great training camp and a really good first game. He’s lost weight. Before, he’d come up to practice, he’d pull his shirt up, I’d say ‘Put that down, nobody wants to look at that fat rolling around.’ ”
Before leaping to block UCF’s game-winning field-goal attempt, the 6-4, 296-pound Dyson ruined running play after running play, his quickness and brute mass drawing blockers with gravitational pull.
Dyson wound up with four tackles and a shared tackle-for-loss. Working behind Dyson, junior middle linebacker Treyvon Williams made a game-high 11 tackles, including two short-yardage stops on third down and had 1.5 tackles for loss.
“Long as the O-line stay on us, we’re eating blocks up, we don’t mind our linebackers scraping over the top and making the play,” Dyson grinned.