Former Mustang Cyril Lemon leads Mean Green to New Year’s Day bowl game

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

Marble Falls High School graduate Cyril Lemon will play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year's Day with his University of North Texas Mean Green team against the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Kickoff is 11 a.m. Photo by the University of North Texas

Marble Falls High School graduate Cyril Lemon (left) will play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day with his University of North Texas Mean Green team against the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Kickoff is 11 a.m. Photo by the University of North Texas

DALLAS — And to think Cyril Lemon almost didn’t visit the University of North Texas.

The 2011 Marble Falls High School graduate took one last trip in February of his senior year and found his new home with the Mean Green.

Three years later, Lemon, a junior, is a solid fixture on the North Texas offensive line and leads the nation in consecutive starts for his position at 36.

Head coach Dan McCarney was so impressed with Lemon during his final year at Marble Falls that he told the player he would be a starter for the Mean Green when he arrived on campus.

“You have to keep your body right, eat right and take it day by day,” the coach told him.

This season, the former Mustang helped the Mean Green to its first bowl game since 2004. UNT defeated the University of Nevada-Las Vegas 36-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day.

It was the first time North Texas played in a New Year’s Day bowl since 1948.

In three years, North Texas is 18-19 under the direction of McCarney. At 8-4 overall and 6-2 in Conference USA, the coach guided the team to its first winning record in several decades. The Mean Green finished the season with the same record as the University of Texas and Texas A&M University.

“All the hard work is paying off,” Lemon said. “We’re trying to make a name for ourselves. We’re just trying to show everyone what UNT is about. Smaller schools don’t get recognition. We’re just trying to get to that.”

Lemon was chosen first team all-Conference USA this year during the Mean Green’s inaugural year in the conference. He said he enjoyed the competition and the exposure.

Another member of the conference is the University of Texas-San Antonio. One of the Roadrunners’ tight ends is David Morgan, a former high school teammate of Lemon. UTSA won 21-13 when the two teams squared off this season.

The two chatted after the game.

“I congratulated him and told him it’s not going to happen next year,” Lemon said with a grin.

Lemon is thought of as the anchor of the line. When he arrived on campus, Lemon continued to pursue the same activities he did when he was in high school. He preferred staying on top of his academics and hanging out with friends and wasn’t shy about sharing his faith when asked. That earned him the nickname “The Rev” from his teammates.

“They don’t call me that anymore,” he said. “I think I have a big impact on my teammates on how I live my life. I help them by the way I live my life.”

Lemon plans on returning for his senior year. He has a long list of goals, including again being named to the all-conference first team, making the All-American and Academic All-American teams and perhaps entering the 2015 NFL Draft.

“If I get a chance,” he said about the draft. “Hopefully, if I get the chance, I’d sure give it a shot. That would be something I’d like to do.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

LEMON STAT SHEET

  • Named to an all-conference team for the third consecutive year in 2013 (honorable mention all-Sun Belt in 2011 and 2012)
  • Part of a line that has allowed 16 sacks in two seasons, leading the nation
  • Helped the University of North Texas set a record for total offense with 4,939 yards

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