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Holliston’s Lyons Copes With Diabetes In Classy Way Football Captain Displays Keen Perspective

Mar 01, 2021 03:23PM ● By Ken Hamway

Kevin Lyons plays football and lacrosse at Holliston High where he’s been a two-time Tri Valley League all-star on the gridiron. And, when football gets underway this month, the senior will be one of the Panthers’ captains.

The durable linebacker is a top-notch competitor because he relies on key attributes that his coach, Todd Kiley, lists as “a high football IQ, an instinctive nature, quickness and mental and physical toughness.’’

But, what makes the 6-foot, 190-pounder very special is the classy way he copes with Type 1 diabetes at practice and during games. The 17-year-old Holliston native, who’s been dealing with the illness since he was two, doesn’t consider himself a role model, but he sets a great example with these words: “I can show others that diabetes isn’t going to stop me from reaching my goals or doing what I want to do.’’

Kiley isn’t bashful lauding Lyons and his praise is understandable. “He’s a throwback player, a true student of the game,’’ the coach emphasized. “He’s the first to practice and the last to leave. And, he’s never missed a play, a practice or a game. Always prepared, he knows how to deal with adversity.’’

Take preparation first. All he did last year was lead the Panthers in tackles (82) and compile 6 sacks. When Kiley and his staff decided to use Lyons at tight end in the South Sectional final against Canton, all he did was score the game-winning touchdown by grabbing a 38-yard pass.

“I had a good all-around game against Canton,’’ Lyons recalled. “Besides the TD catch, I had a sack and seven tackles. That game was thrilling. When I knew the pass was going to me, I just said to myself ‘do your job.’ I got open over the middle, made the catch and ran it into the endzone.’’

Now, think about what diabetes — a condition that prevents the pancreas from  producing sufficient insulin — forces Lyons to do on and off the field.

A starter in football since his sophomore year, Lyons spent that season checking his blood sugar before, during and after games by pricking his finger, putting blood on a tab, then getting a numerical reading on a meter. If the reading was high, he got the situation corrected by entering the number into a pump that supplies insulin into his system.

“I got a new pump my junior year that helped me maintain a stable blood-sugar number,’’ Lyons said. “That eliminated pricking my finger. If I have a low number, I’ll come out of a game, the trainer (Nicole Siglin) will check me out and I’ll have some sweet snacks (candy bar, etc.). It’s only temporary when I leave a game. And, if I’m not feeling well or lack energy and feel jittery, I’ll check my blood sugar more often. I deal with the condition much better now. It’s not overwhelming; it’s about maintaining a routine.’’

During that junior year last season, Lyons helped Holliston post a 9-2 record, losing only to Ashland and Swampscott in the playoffs. “The Ashland game was a memorable contest,’’ he noted. “I played a solid game on defense and gave 100 percent but I got cut. When the game ended, my white uniform jersey was covered in blood. We had a quality season and our players relied on teamwork.’’

This season, Lyons, who’s acutely aware that 2021 will be different because of covid-19, has some admirable goals. He knows there’ll be no Sectional playoffs or a Super Bowl.

“I want our team to win every game,’’ he emphasized. “If there’s a league playoff, we want to capture that title. It’s important that all our players enjoy the journey. We’re pleased to have a season and we’re relieved that it was moved to Fall 2. It’s sad there’s no State playoffs but we’re just glad to have the opportunity to compete. As for my individual goals,  I’d like to lead the team in tackles again and perhaps score a touchdown or two. It’s really about doing the best we can.’’

The Panthers opener will be played on either March 19 or March 20. An opponent and venue had yet to be determined at Local Town Pages deadline. 

Lyons truly enjoys playing linebacker and he’s excited about his role as a captain.

“I want to lead by example and by being vocal on the field,’’ he said. “I also want to be encouraging and supportive of all my teammates. At linebacker, what’s great is it puts me in a leadership role by calling audibles. I also like being in position to read, react and pursue. Being instinctive is a key at linebacker and it takes speed and quickness to get to the ball-carrier. It’s a challenging position because there’s so much to think about.’’

Lyons is quick to think about others and he’s extremely bullish on Holliston’s other captains and his coach.

“Our captains are all seniors,’’ Lyons noted. “Tristan Benson (running back), Zack Athy (lineman), and Teddy Ratcliffe (receiver) are quality leaders who are dedicated, motivated and fantastic at their positions. Coach Kiley is the face of our program. He brings energy to the team, knows so much strategy and is very motivating.’’

An honor student, Lyons plans to play football in college. He’s leaning towards a business or economics major, but isn’t sure of his career path. He will attend Hamilton College in New York.

 Fully cognizant of the effects of covid-19, Lyons would be “okay’’ with no football if the virus was in everyone’s rear-view mirror. “The health and safety of everyone are what’s most important,’’ he stressed. “I respect that other people’s lives are in danger. It would sting to have no football but I’d be fine with that if it meant saving lives.’’

Calling his mother (Sheila) his role model for her encouragement and support, Lyons, who’s a midfielder in lacrosse, knows the value of athletics teaching valuable life lessons.

“You learn how to be a leader, how to develop a strong work ethic and how to be a good teammate,’’ he noted. “Sports definitely help with overcoming adversity. Competing no doubt makes my blood sugar go high or low but football helps me to deal with diabetes. It puts my diabetes to a test and I have to pass that test.’’

Kevin Lyons is a dynamic two-sport athlete whose perspective on real-life issues should be a lesson for everyone.