JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — Cyril Lemon still turns eyes when he’s at Marble Falls High School.
The 2011 graduate, who spent the last football season on the New Orleans Saints’ injured reserve list, recently spoke to the current Mustang players.
And when he walked onto the Leonel Manzano Track at Mustang Stadium, some students stopped what they were doing to watch the 6-foot-3-inch, 330-pound lineman warm up for a private workout.
Going pro hasn’t changed Lemon, who was known as “The Rev” by his teammates at the University of North Texas because of his faith.
He still remains humble and give thanks for his success. He was grateful to the Saints for signing him to a second year a season after he had to have ankle surgery and spent 12 weeks on the IR. It was the first time Lemon suffered a major injury, which happened during the Saints’ 30-27 preseason loss to the Ravens on Aug. 13.
“I’m trying to make it up,” he said. “I lost last season due to injury. I need to be better than when I went to the Saints the first time.”
Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland told Lemon the organization saw the former Mustang was of high character and believes he can play on the professional level for a long time.
“They gave me an opportunity to prove myself,” Lemon said.
Ireland also gave Lemon a list of items to work on in the offseason before team activities begin in a few weeks. Those were components the athlete has been working on for several weeks with local coaches Calvin Richard of Verus Strength and Fitness and Marble Falls High School cross-country and track coach Anthony Torns.
Torns is helping Lemon with his cardio workouts, getting faster and moving quicker; Richard’s workouts are designed to help the athlete get stronger. And Lemon must accomplish all of it because he plans to challenge for a spot on the Saints’ 48-man roster. And the workouts are designed to help him drop to about 315 pounds, which is what he weighed last spring for Pro Days in Dallas.
“I’ve got to work double-time because I’ve been out for awhile,” he said. “They know my limits and pushing me. I have to push myself, and I want to. I’m trying to play, I’m trying to be on the field. … Calvin and Torns will hold me accountable for my actions.”
When he wore the purple and gold, everyone — including opponents — knew that if the Mustangs wanted to run the football, the play would go to left side where Lemon was the left tackle.
As a member of the North Texas Mean Green, Lemon made 49 consecutive starts, which led the nation, and played on a line that allowed the fewest sacks (17) in 2012 and 2013 combined.
But Lemon now must continue to prove himself on the professional level. He noted that in high school and college, he knew he had four years to play at each level. But on the professional ranks, there are no guarantees.
His approach, however, isn’t to worry about who’s coming.
“We get new rookies in every year,” he said. “But I don’t really look at other people. It doesn’t matter if I better myself, no matter who’s coming. A lot of times, I have to focus on myself and what I’m doing.”
He highly respects the Saints coaching staff, especially head coach and offensive play caller Sean Payton.
“He’s one of the best coaches you can have to become a professional,” the lineman said. “That’s the big transition I’m focusing on.”
Ultimately, he said, his advice to the current Mustangs was to focus on their goals and be willing to sacrifice to accomplish them, and he continues to model that message.
“A lot of times, we don’t count the cost,” he recalled saying. “I have a goal of playing and staying. I have to have a plan. I came down here for the solitude and to get my mind focused on what’s ahead. … It’s a privilege to do something not everybody gets the opportunity. If you have the opportunity, take it.”