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Could BYU ties help Kalani Sitake net one of the best tight ends in the country?

Folsom High tight end Walker Lyons has powerhouse programs chasing after him, but here’s why the Cougars may have the inside track

SHARE Could BYU ties help Kalani Sitake net one of the best tight ends in the country?
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake waves to fans as he heads to the locker room at halftime of the Independence Bowl.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake waves to fans as he heads to the locker room at the half of Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Cougars are chasing Lyons.

With the 2022 recruiting class in the rearview mirror, aside from spring or summer transfer portal additions, BYU coach Kalani Sitake is focused on the 2023 and 2024 classes and if you had to put a name on the top of that list it would be Folsom (California) High tight end Walker Lyons.

Lyons is a massive 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior who had both Sitake and Alabama’s Nick Saban in his home more than a week ago. He’s also taken trips to Stanford, Utah and Oregon and received visits from recruiters at USC, Ohio State, Michigan, and just about every major football powerhouse in the country, including national champion Georgia.

It would not be an understatement to say Lyons and defensive lineman Spencer Fano are the top high school athletes who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In other words, the pressure is on, Sitake. 

Lyons is working his way to be the No. 1 tight end prospect in the country. He has been compared to Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz. “He is big and he is very smart,” says neighbor Jason Straw, a former Cougars cornerback who has known Lyons all his life.

If you take a peek behind the curtain, young Lyons has so many ties to BYU that it would be impossible for him not to understand the program, school and community.

Walker’s DNA is filled with Cougar connections.

Will that carry the day when he announces his commitment, possibly in the next few weeks?

Maybe. Cougars tight end coach Steve Clark and Sitake have plenty of work to do.

Right now, he is the “hunted.” He is being courted by the nation’s blue bloods and they’re coming hard.

In the meantime, hold on to your genealogy sheet. Here’s a ride on Walker Lyons’ family line and it is as blue as one can imagine.

His sister Kapri is currently enrolled at BYU. His younger brother Ryder has already received a BYU offer. His older sister Kassidy graduated from BYU last year and married former BYU tight end David Weekes.

His father played for LaVell Edwards.

Walker’s father, Tim Lyons, transferred to BYU after playing basketball at Diablo Valley Junior College in California. He walked on and tried out for the Cougars basketball team in the Roger Reid era, but was cut. He then walked on to play defensive back on the 1996 Cotton Bowl team, getting a little playing time on what many consider the best BYU defense in history. Straw, one of his best friends, was also a corner who transferred to BYU from Ricks College.

According to Straw, Tim Lyons can still dunk the basketball at 49. “He is a great athlete and very focused on detail with his kids. He and I both went to dental school and have practices nearby in El Dorado. 

“Tim built a basketball court in his home and a workout room next to it.  He remains very active and is in great shape.”

Both recently bought BYU season tickets. 

Tim Lyons is close friends with former BYU tight end Byron Rex, whose son Isaac has started at BYU the past two seasons and led the nation in TDs for tight ends as a freshman. Walker Lyons has stayed in the home of the Rex family when he’s undergone football training in that area of California.

Tim Lyons and Straw both met their wives at BYU. Straw has since divorced and remarried, but he lived with the Lyons in between marriages in their home in the El Dorado Hills community near Sacramento, a very close-knit gathering of families who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is where Scott and Nichole Collie raised three BYU receiver brothers Zac, Austin and Dylan. And, yes, they all know Tim and Kamee Lyons and their son Walker.

Kamee Lyons is the daughter of the most storied Latter-day Saint movie producer, writer and director of all-time, Academy Award winner, and BYU graduate Kieth Merrill.Walker Lyons’ famous movie grandpa invited BYU and NFL Hall of Famer and Super Bowl MVP quarterback Steve Young to live in his famous “Barn” on his spread in northern California during his NFL playing days. Kamee and the rest of her family used to load up in the family van and go to 49ers games and met with Young afterward for dinners.

Grandpa Merrill once served as president of the BYU Alumni Association.

Kamee Lyons’ older sister Kaele Merrill Porter, Walker’s aunt, is married to former BYU student Greg Porter,a neighbor in El Dorado Hills. Porter, a former vice president at Apple, Inc., founded a multimillion-dollar software company called PowerSchool, which he sold to Apple for a small fortune. Porter recently spoke to a BYU college graduation commencement.

Another Merrill daughter, Kahna, is married to former BYU basketball player and Provo native (Timpview High star) Alan Andrus, who also played at Utah Technical College and University of Hawaii before playing professionally in Japan.

The Andrus family lives in El Dorado Hills near Walker, where he grew up with Andrus’ cousins that include Roman, a former BYU football player and his brother Truman, a preferred walk-on who sat out last season with an injury after earning special teams player of the week honors the previous year. Truman Andrus is also a close friend of Josh Wilson, the younger brother of New York Jets quarterback, Zach Wilson. An Andrus sister, Walker’s cousin Vivian, is a current BYU cheerleader. Another cousin, Natalia Andrus, is a volleyball player at Utah Valley.

Internet rumors speculated that Walker Lyons is related to former BYU quarterback Marc Lyons, who worked for decades as a KSL color commentator with the late Paul James and Greg Wrubell. Not true.

“Tim is my very best friend and he lives nearby,” said Straw. “We both are in the field of dentistry. He’s an orthodontist who attended dental school in Maryland. I’m an oral surgeon who graduated from dental school in Richmond, Virginia. We were best friends at BYU. Tim and I were both walk-ons at BYU and were two of the only walk-ons who saw playing time in that Cotton Bowl.

“I’ve known Walker since he was just a little kid. We weren’t so sure, you know, in terms of his athleticism growing up, but he’s just turned into this beast of a player. He’s such a big kid. He’s got so much potential,” said Straw.

“One thing I can tell you about Walker, which is very unique, is that he’s what we would call kind of like a gentle giant so to speak. I mean he’s an observer. He sees kind of what’s going on around him and understands plays, space and defenses. 

“He’s not one to make a lot of drama out of things. He’s just solid and super smart. He gets good grades. His parents have obviously been influential in his life and I’m sure they’ll have input on where he should go. But Walker is very quiet about where he’s leaning, keeping it close.”

That brings hope for other recruiters like Utah, who reportedly made an impression on Walker because of the Utes’ use of the tight ends in their run to a Pac-12 title.

But it is also in BYU’s favor that BYU has a list of tight end All-Americans, including the late Gordon Hudson, NFL veterans Chad Lewis, Itula Mili, Dennis Pitta and Andrew George, among others in a long line of big-time playmakers at that position.

Walker Lyons has been all over the country visiting and researching schools, including Steve Sarkisian at Texas, according to Straw. 

“It’s been fun watching him go out and kind of observe, but the one thing that you won’t get from Walker is he won’t tell you where he’s at.”

Walker was in LaVell Edwards Stadium last September on an unofficial visit to BYU to see the Cougars end a nine-year losing streak to the Utes. He was in the locker room for the post-game celebration where a packed crowd outside continued to celebrate a huge week that included an invitation to join the Big 12.

How big is Lyons choice between the more than 30 schools that have offered him?  

It’s a pretty well-worn path.

Stay tuned. Word is Walker Lyons will graduate early, in December. He is expected to go on a church mission right after high school graduation.

Will his family connections to his BYU heritage be a factor?

Stay tuned.