It is difficult to overstate the complicated nature of Michael Dyer’s football career. He arrived at Auburn in 2010, as the No. 1 running back recruit in the nation, according to 247 sports. Most expected him to turn in three or four years of strong play for the Tigers before making the jump to the NFL.
At first, everything seemed as if it was going according to plan. Dyer had two productive seasons at Auburn as a freshman and sophomore, totaling 15 touchdowns and more than 2,300 rushing yards. He had NFL prospect written all over him.
Everything went sideways by the end of Dyer’s sophomore campaign.
First, he was ruled ineligible for the 2011 Chik-fil-A following a robbery scandal. The Tigers beat up on the Virginia Cavaliers, 43-24, without him.
Then, somewhat suddenly, Gus Malzahn left to be the head coach of Arkansas State. He was the assistant credited for building up the Tigers’ offense around Dyer.
Perhaps in response to Malzahn’s departure, Dyer then entered the transfer pool ahead of his junior season. His intended destination: Arkansas State. And he got there, reuniting with Malzahn. Sort of.
Dyer was kicked off the Red Wolves before ever playing a down for them. He spent the next year out of football before ending up at Louisville. He was used in a reserve capacity during his first season there and then afforded a larger role in 2014, as a senior. After a relatively strong year, he was ruled academically ineligible for the 2014 Belk Bowl.
This effectively marked the conclusion of Dyer’s career. He would never play in an NFL regular season, even though many believed he was talented enough.
It is tough to say whether things would’ve been much different had he stuck at Auburn. Prospects go bust all the time, and even if you strike his off-field problems from consideration, the academic ineligibility could’ve still loomed later on.
This is just as much of an indictment against the NCAA as it is Dyer. He could’ve done more to put himself in a position to succeed outside football, but the NCAA’s demands of its collegiate athletes coupled with a lack of focus on academic development is most definitely at fault to some extent.
And let’s be honest: Given the numbers Dyer put up in his first two years at Auburn, it isn’t hard to envision him making the NFL if he’d kept it up. What ended up happening to him is both a cautionary tale and cause for the NCAA to take a look in the mirror.