Wed Nov 25 2:26am ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) Marty Lyons pauses, fights back tears and clears his throat nearly every time he mentions the children who are no longer here.
The former New York Jets defensive lineman and longtime team radio analyst has seen way too many youngsters enter his life and then die from the cancer and other illnesses that have robbed them - and their loved ones - of bright futures.
''I mean, these are little kids, but the pain that their families endure for the rest of their life is, sometimes it's unbearable because there's always going to be a missing face,'' Lyons said during a telephone interview. ''There's always going to be a birthday to celebrate.''
But also so many other days to remember the lasting impacts they made in just a few short years.
''These kids that are unfortunately dying at an early age are teachers in the game of life, even though they might only be 4 or 5 or 6 years old,'' Lyons said. ''They have a message. I remember one little girl I met, she looked at me and said, `Mr. Marty, why are you crying?'
''And I couldn't get out an answer because she said, `I'm going to be OK. I've already seen the angels.'''
Lyons has been on a mission - 38 years and counting - to fulfill the wishes of children between the ages of 3 and 17 who have been diagnosed with a terminal or life-threatening illness. He started the Marty Lyons Foundation in 1982 and the nonprofit has granted over 8,000 wishes and raised over $35 million while growing to 10 chapters in 13 states.
The 63-year-old former football star also has a new book called, ''If These Walls Could Talk: Stories From The New York Jets Sideline, Locker Room and Press Box.'' Co-authored by Lou Sahadi, the book includes tales from Lyons' playing days at Alabama and then as a member of the ''New York Sack Exchange'' with the Jets, along with observations from his 19 years as a radio broadcaster. It's also packed with emotional stories about the young children he has met along the way.
''I wanted to make sure that the readers understood that there was more to me than being a football player,'' said Lyons, a member of the Jets' ring of honor. ''Certainly, I appreciate it and I'm very humbled and honored to be a part of the Jets organization, and I loved every minute of it. But there is nothing more important than me telling crossover stories about kids that have lost their lives at an early age because of cancer.''
Lyons signed over all of the proceeds he gets from the book directly to his foundation, which was started after the most emotionally tough week of his life.
His oldest son Rocky was born on March 4, 1982, and Marty's father was making plans to fly to New York to meet his grandson. Leo Lyons never made the trip, dying at 58 of a heart attack on March 8. While attending his father's wake in Florida two days later, Lyons called home and received the news that Keith, his little brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, died of leukemia just two months shy of his sixth birthday.
''So, in a matter of six days, I was challenged,'' Lyons recalled. ''I kept asking myself, what am I doing wrong in life? Why would God do this to me? And the more I asked why me, the more I learned to understand I was actually saying, why not somebody else?''
But Lyons didn't want anyone to feel the pain he was experiencing. So he approached Jets teammate Ken Schroy about what he could do to make more of a difference.
From there, the Marty Lyons Foundation was born, and the two continue to brighten young children's days by granting wishes - a visit to Disney World, celebrity meet-and-greets, a computer, a swimming pool - and being there for their families during the darkest of times.
''He takes that passion from his playing days and switched it to a passion for the children,'' said Schroy, a former safety who was Lyons' Jets teammate from 1979-84. ''It's amazing to see him interact with so many children. We've been to so many hospitals with children fighting for their lives. Granting the wishes was the easy part. Helping them fight the disease moving forward was tough.
''And Marty, he just wears his heart on his sleeve. He always did. He's just an amazing man.''
The coronavirus pandemic has hampered the Marty Lyons Foundation's abilities to grant as many wishes as it usually does. It's holding a virtual silent auction through its site from Nov. 27-Dec. 11 to help raise funds to fulfill more wishes.
Lyons is quick to deflect credit for his foundation's work, insisting it's the group of staffers, friends and volunteers that has helped him build it to what it is today. The book has allowed him to recognize them, while also impacting readers.
''I've had people reply back: `When I read the book, I found myself laughing and I found myself crying, and at the end of the book, I found myself inspired,''' Lyons said. ''I know for me writing it, it was an emotional roller coaster.''
The chuckles in the locker room and on the playing fields. The tears shed over the children and their families. And, the lessons learned over 38 years.
''My dad loved life,'' Lyons said, his voice cracking. ''But, if I had to tell him, `Dad, you're going to die so that I could start a foundation and I could help all these kids,' he would've said, `Fine. Let me have one more cigarette, one more beer and I'm good.' It doesn't take away the pain. But when I started the foundation, it was the vehicle for me to move on because life doesn't stop for any one of us.
''When all is said and done and you look back at your life and what you were able to do and what you were able to accomplish, the biggest question you can ask yourself is, did I make an impact?''
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 12
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (knee) are both expected to get in some practice work on Wednesday as the team prepares for Week 12 against the Vikings. McCaffrey is expected to miss another game this weekend. However, Bridgewater is on track to play on Sunday if all goes well in practice the rest of the week. Minnesota's D has been a good matchup for quarterbacks all season long, but Bridgewater is a shaky low-end QB2 this week if he plays through his knee injury. McCaffrey still hasn't been ruled out for this weekend, but fantasy managers shouldn't get their hopes up. Mike Davis will be a strong RB2 play if he gets another start as the featured back for Carolina.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense will take on the Baltimore Ravens at home on Thanksgiving in Week 12. Pittsburgh's defense has been one of the top fantasy defenses in the league this season and will look to limit a Ravens offense that has not been nearly as explosive as it was in 2019. The Steelers are installed as 4.5-point home favorites in a game with a low 44.5-point over/under. Fantasy gamers can start the Steelers as a top-10 option in Week 12.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster turned in a slow performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11, catching just four passes for 19 yards. Smith-Schuster will look to bounce back in Week 12 when he faces the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving night. The Ravens have been tough against wide receivers in fantasy this year, allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. That being said, Smith-Schuster had a solid game against them back in Week 8, catching seven passes for 67 yards. Fantasy gamers can treat him as a high-end WR3 for Week 12.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron has now caught a touchdown in three of his past four games. He hasn't been posting very many receiving yards along the way but his performances still put him in the TE1 conversation considering the dearth of options at the position in fantasy. He will take on the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving in Week 12 in a decent matchup for him. The Ravens are allowing the 15th-most fantasy points per game to tight ends and allowed him to post 48 yards and a score against them back in Week 8. Treat Ebron as a low-end TE1 for Week 12.
Jacksonville Jaguars PK Aldrick Rosas was removed from the Practice Squad; Suspended by Commissioner list Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Updating a previous story, Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen tested negative for COVID-19 following a positive test. His status is undetermined.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner has hit a wall over his past three games. Over that span, Conner has rushed for 147 scoreless yards across 35 carries. The veteran running back may continue to struggle in Week 12 as he will take on a Baltimore Ravens Defense that has been tough against the run this season. The Ravens rank fourth in the league in run-defense DVOA while allowing the 12th-fewest fantasy points per game to the running back position. Conner did find the end zone against them back in Week 8 but he managed just 47 rushing yards on 15 carries. Treat him as a low-end RB2 for his Thanksgiving game against the Ravens.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson has been trending upwards in recent weeks, having topped 100 receiving yards in two straight games. Now fully healthy and re-established as Ben Roethlisberger's No. 1 wide receiver, Johnson will be a strong play in fantasy against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12's Thursday night game. The Ravens have been tough against wide receivers this year, allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to the position but Johnson should still get enough volume on Thursday night to finish as a low-end WR2 for fantasy.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool continues to take the league by storm in his rookie campaign. Claypool has scored 10 total touchdowns in the first 10 games of his career, emerging as one of Ben Roethlisberger's favorite red-zone targets. The Steelers face off against the Baltimore Ravens in the Thursday night game in Week 12. Claypool will have his work cut out for him against a Baltimore secondary that is allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to the wide receiver position. That being said, Claypool has shown that he is a multi-touchdown threat any time he takes the field. Treat him as a low-end WR2 for his game on Thanksgiving night.
New Orleans Saints QB Trevor Siemian was lifted from the Exempt/Commissioner Permission list Tuesday, Nov. 24, and added to the active roster.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will take on the Baltimore Ravens in the Thursday night game on Thanksgiving in Week 12. Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh passing offense has been very pass-heavy of late as he has attempted at least 42 passes in four of his past five games. Baltimore's pass defense has been very average this season, allowing the 19th-most fantasy points per game to QBs. While not an easy matchup, this is definitely not a stay-away game for the Pittsburgh quarterback in fantasy, either. Roethlisberger passed for just 182 yards back when these two teams met in Week 8 but he did manage two touchdowns. Treat him as a high-end QB2 on Thanksgiving.
Pittsburgh Steelers DB Antoine Brooks Jr., WR Deon Cain, RB Wendell Smallwood and P Corliss Waitman were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 12 Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Tennessee Titans LB Will Compton, C Daniel Munyer, LS Matthew Overton and LB Tuzar Skipper were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 12 Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Jordan Howard, DT T.Y. McGill, DE Joe Ostman and TE Caleb Wilson were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 12 Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Terry Godwin, DB Josh Nurse, WR Trey Quinn and PK Aldrick Rosas were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 12 Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Las Vegas Raiders LB Vic Beasley, PK Dominik Eberle, WR Rico Gafford and DE Chris Smith were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 12 Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Los Angeles Chargers LB B.J. Bello, TE Matt Sokol and DB Jaylen Watkins were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 12 Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Denver Broncos TE Troy Fumagalli, DB Alijah Holder and LB Josh Watson were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 12 Tuesday, Nov. 24.