April 5, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Preston Lyons can’t help but feel extra competitive when April comes around.
An Atlanta native, who played B-back for Georgia Tech from 2009 through 2011, Lyons hasn’t put on a football uniform since Dec. 31, 2011 — when he led Georgia Tech in rushing (138 yards on 18 carries) in the Yellow Jackets’ 30-27 overtime loss to Utah in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. But he still feels those competitive juices in April, the time Spring Football gets going.
“I always loved Spring Ball,” recalled Lyons, a Marist High School product, who finished his college career with 541 rushing yards on 101 carries (592 all-purpose yards), with two rushing touchdowns in 32 games. “Coming off the winter workouts and coaches’ runs and weightlifting that you do, it’s fun to finally get out there and mix it up with the guys and start hitting people again. The other great part about Spring Practice is a lot of guys know they have an opportunity. They’re competing for a position. So everyone’s given a fair chance to assert himself and really show what he can do.”
After playing his freshman season at Colgate in 2007, Lyons transferred to Georgia Tech, choosing to come home and play big time football with its unforgiving schedule, over his adventurous side in upstate New York, with its frigid temperatures and unforgiving winds. He knew that playing time would be at a premium, with future NFLers Jonathan Dwyer then Anthony Allen in front of him, but relished the opportunity to play with and learn from them.
“It’s the whole competition aspect behind it,” he said. “Looking up to guys like Anthony and Jon, obviously, they’re still having success in the NFL, so clearly they’re outstanding players. Every day you’ve got to bring it. You’ve got to do your best. You’ve got to learn from them. Obviously we learned from each other. Having such great guys out there on the field and being able to learn from them and obviously pushing each other to get the best result was probably the great part of playing with those guys.”
Winning the 2009 ACC Championship, his personal highlight, was kinda nice, too.
“We really had it all that year,” he recalled. “Being able to beat Clemson twice in one year was a blast, winning the ACC and then going out to Miami for the Orange Bowl was definitely my fondest memory.”
Lyons is still bringing it every day, now as VP of Sales for an Atlanta-based company called Achieve!t, “a start-up technology company, which helps organizations develop, track and execute their strategic plans.” (For more, visit the company’s web site at www-beta.achieveit.com).
As part of his duties Lyons is writing Blogs, which usually tie in his experience in the sports world to the business world.
“One big aspect of sales, having that competition, having that work ethic, having that hunger, having that drive, is what’s really propelled me,” Lyons said. “It’s the one thing that I’ve been able to translate. One thing that our coaches would always say, `Every practice, every game, you focus on one thing to get better at and then you’ll get better at that.’ Eventually you keep improving and improving and improving and it’s like learning in the business world. Every day I was going to focus on something and improve in some capacity.”
Lyons got an opportunity to interview at Achieve!t via a recommendation from Georgia Tech Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Development Jack Thompson, and cashed it in, landing the job.
He knew that despite the daunting challenges that face every start-up, Achieve!t was in the right place for him, as of the company’s dozen employees, half were Georgia Tech alumni.
That has made for an ideal working environment, as well as an easy way to keep his finger on the pulse of Georgia Tech athletics.
“Everyone gets fired up during the fall months on Fridays and on Mondays we’re always talking about the game,” Lyons said. “We had that Thursday night game against Virginia Tech and half the office left at like 4:00 so they could get down there and go watch the game. So it’s absolutely awesome working with some Georgia Tech folks.”
Lyons closely follows the Jackets and a really closely watches the B-backs. He believes his old position is in good hands.
“I think they’re doing great,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to play with David (Sims) for a couple of years. He did great, transitioning from quarterback to B- back. [Zach] Laskey was a little freshman, so he was learning a lot but you could just look at the guy, he’s got a great frame, very athletic. He has a lot of potential. I just love watching Laskey play. He has one more year left. He runs so hard, he understands the game and he has phenomenal vision. So I think he’s doing great. There are a couple of younger guys in there. I think we’re doing great at that B-back spot.”
Lyons, who loved playing in Paul Johnson’s Spread Option, believes that specialty attack has contributed to what has become a pipeline between Marist and Georgia Tech.
“Marist actually runs a very similar offense to Georgia Tech, so on the offensive side of the ball it’s kind of an easy transition,” said Lyons, who was a two-way player for the War Eagles, accumulating 4,074 all-purpose yards as a running back, including setting Marist career records for rushing yards (3,707) and touchdowns (61), while also playing linebacker. “You start in the seventh, eighth, ninth grade, you get used to using the Spread Option, you understand the ideas, the concepts behind it and that’s a great recruiting mechanism for Georgia Tech because it’s an easy transition.”
As Lyons moves on and grows accustomed to the business world, he is eagerly anticipating the Spring Game, which will allow him to relive his days playing Georgia Tech football — for better or for worse.
“The one thing that I miss most about football was you had an excuse to hit people. I try not to tell people that too much in the business world,” he said, with a laugh. “If you had a tough day in class or you did badly on a test, just having the chance to express that emotion and go out there and be physical with people is probably what I miss the most.
“I don’t miss that day after where you wake up and get out of bed and you’re sore, and have got bruises all over,” he added. “That’s one thing that I definitely don’t miss.”
Get The Good Word in your e-mail box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.