New Set Of Downs For Foot­ball Star

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - OPINION - David Wilson Learn­ing Ev­ery Day DAVID WILSON, EDD, OF SPRING­DALE, IS A FOR­MER HIGH SCHOOL PRIN­CI­PAL AND IS THE COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS DI­REC­TOR FOR THE TRAN­SIT AND PARK­ING DE­PART­MENT AT THE UNI­VER­SITY OF ARKANSAS. HIS BOOK, LEARN­ING EV­ERY DAY, IS AVAIL­ABLE ON AMAZ

Au­thor and news­pa­per­man Kyle Mooty has roots in Alabama but many con­nec­tions in Arkansas.

He once stud­ied jour­nal­ism at the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas, and his mother Dr. Charlene Mooty worked there as a dean in the home eco­nomics de­part­ment. She was an as­sis­tant dean in the col­lege of agri­cul­ture when she re­tired.

As a col­lege stu­dent, Kyle got deeply in­volved in work­ing at the North­west Arkansas Times in Fayet­teville and has been in jour­nal­ism ever since.

He is now in the south­east part of Alabama, work­ing as a news­pa­per gen­eral man­ager and editor.

His 2018 book New Set of Downs tells about how one per­son over­came in­cred­i­ble odds to gain a fresh start in life.

It’s about the life of for­mer Alabama run­ning back Johnny Dyess, who played for the Crim­son Tide un­der Coach Paul Bear Bryant from 1978-1981.

Alabama had much suc­cess then, as now, win­ning na­tional cham­pi­onships in 1978 and 1979.

Arkansas fans may re­mem­ber the dis­ap­point­ing 24-9 loss to Alabama in the 1980 Sugar Bowl, which al­lowed the Crim­son Tide to com­plete a 12-0 sea­son and se­cure a na­tional cham­pi­onship.

Arkansas Coach Lou Holtz had a very good Ra­zor­back team that year, and he wrote in his 2006 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Wins, Losses, and Lessons that af­ter the Sugar Bowl, Coach Bryant told him it was the best game that Alabama had played in five years.

It was in­deed a dom­i­nat­ing per­for­mance from start to fin­ish.

But while New Set of Downs has much to learn from the world of foot­ball, it is not a book de­voted solely to foot­ball.

In­stead, it tells about the life of Dyess, and how— with the help of his faith and some in­cred­i­ble sup­port from oth­ers—he over­came a life-threat­en­ing ad­dic­tion to metham­phetamine.

Mooty has writ­ten ex­ten­sively about a lot of is­sues dur­ing his ca­reer. He knows all about col­le­giate foot­ball, the hopes of young ath­letes, and the fail­ures that oc­cur in al­most ev­ery com­mu­nity when in­di­vid­u­als go down the wrong path­way in life.

He knows meth is more than just a crim­i­nal or so­cial is­sue; it is an ad­dic­tion that leads to death for al­most all of those en­tan­gled in its grip.

Mooty had heard for­mer drug users tell their story be­fore, but when he met Dyess, he sensed that a drug re­cov­ery had oc­curred that was very dif­fer­ent from oth­ers he had seen.

He wrote, “I knew I had come across some­one whose story was per­haps more spe­cial than any­thing I had come across in my decades in the me­dia busi­ness.”

Dyess was suc­cess­ful enough in high school foot­ball to get a spot with Alabama, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of his Un­cle Mar­lin “Scooter” Dyess, who had played for the Crim­son Tide from 1957-1959.

For the younger Dyess, foot­ball at Alabama con­sumed his en­tire life; there was prac­ti­cally no time left to pur­sue any­thing else.

But af­ter his play­ing days were over, there was a void. And he be­gan to fill that void with dif­fer­ent drugs, even­tu­ally dis­cov­er­ing that meth gave him what he wanted.

This be­gan a down­ward spi­ral: ad­dic­tion, cook­ing meth, drug deal­ing, fail­ing to have a reg­u­lar job, and even­tu­ally the pos­si­bil­ity of a long prison sen­tence.

Johnny Dyess had come from a good home with good par­ents, but meth took over his life nonethe­less.

He fi­nally hit rock bot­tom when a drug raid at his house re­sulted in his ar­rest.

Johnny knew that ev­ery­thing had to change, but how?

All of the de­tails are in New Set of Downs, but in short, were it not for the ded­i­cated ef­forts of Chris­tian peo­ple in at least two cru­cial min­istries (one in Ope­lika, Ala., near Auburn and the other in New York City) Johnny’s life may have ended trag­i­cally.

But it didn’t, and to­day— as an as­sis­tant coach and head groundskeeper at Elba High School—he is able to work with young peo­ple and speak to school and church groups.

The book tells of his jour­ney, of how the trans­for­ma­tion didn’t just hap­pen overnight, of how there was a process of heal­ing, of growth, and of an op­por­tu­nity to make things right. When Johnny tells about his story, he makes it clear that God had his hand on the en­tire mat­ter from start to fin­ish.

It makes for a rich and mean­ing­ful book.

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