Yes, they would, for nobody in the Class of '85 can catch the ball as well as Dykes can. As a sophomore in 1986 he had a school-record 60 receptions for an average of 13.6 yards; in '87 he beat his own record with 64 catches (average gain: 16.4 yards); this year—despite routine double coverage—he has 65 receptions (average: 17.9). "I look at two-man coverage as a challenge," says the 6'4", 220-pound Dykes. "Besides, they put two men on me and still can't stop me. And it's always more fun to go out and beat two guys."
Midway through this season Dykes sailed past former Nebraska running back Johnny Rodgers to become the Big Eight's career leader in receiving yardage ( Rodgers had 2,350 yards, Dykes has 3,235). Seven times Dykes has had two touchdown receptions in a game; he has 28 altogether, a Cowboy record for receivers. "He has the rarest combination of speed, height, strength and athletic ability," says coach Pat Jones. "He's just a great hand-eye athlete."
That's routinely made plain by Dykes's incredible one-handed catches, which, of course, he doesn't mind talking about. "I do have a tendency to catch one-handed," he says. "I know how to do it because I practice it all the time, so when it happens in a game, everyone is surprised except me. I want people to go home with something to talk about."
Despite his boasting, Dykes has legions of admirers at Oklahoma State. Says Jones, "There's no telling how fast Hart can run. I guess he can run as fast as he wants. I can't complain about him in any regard. He blocks, and he plays much harder away from the ball. I like being around him." And Cowboy quarterback Mike Gundy says, "Hart is the best thing that ever happened to me. I can't imagine how a guy that strong can run that fast, can jump that high and has such soft hands."
Dykes is protective of those hands, his ticket to a front-row seat at next April's NFL draft. He has started lifting weights to add some bulk to his sleek frame, but frets about calluses. So he wears gloves in the weight room. "I try to keep my hands out of the way of everything," he says. "I try to keep them in my pockets and never near blades." He horrified himself recently when he was drilling holes in his new vanity license plate (it reads ICU-UCME) and got to thinking how easily he could have ruined his future.
It was clear long ago that young Hart Lee, who hails from Bay City, Texas, was something special; at age nine he won the national Punt, Pass and Kick competition. To help the youngster get ready for the contest, his dad, also Hart Lee ("He's named after me," explains the younger Dykes), shagged balls for him. Dykes was the only Texan on the Parade high school All-America team, and
named him the offensive player of the year.
Given those credentials, it is, sadly, not surprising that the recruitment of Dykes cost a head coach and an assistant their jobs. Earlier this year, Illinois coach Mike White resigned when the NCAA revealed that a former assistant, later identified as Rick George—who left Illinois to become recruiting coordinator at Colorado in 1987—had violated NCAA rules by giving Dykes money to stay at a motel so he would be out of sight of competing schools. Oklahoma State assistant Willie Anderson was fired in early 1986 for allegedly giving Dykes, and other players, illegal incentives to sign with the Cowboys. Dykes is said to have received $5,000 in cash, a new car and monthly payments of $125 from Oklahoma State. Those charges, if proved, may soon earn the school a heavy penalty from the NCAA. When asked about the allegations, Dykes said, "It doesn't ring a bell to me."
The controversy surrounding Dykes's recruitment has overshadowed his athletic accomplishments—and probably kept him off last season's All-America team. There was no keeping him off this year, though. Dykes says, "I've always felt confident I could catch a ball. It's very easy, really. I'm a very easygoing guy. I don't want any problems. And I'd rather play football than do anything else."
Kevin Mills is a college guy of unprepossessing stature (6'1") and reasonable weight (185). On the Penn State campus, he passes for just another student. Four years ago no one would have predicted such prosaic status for Mills. After all, he had kicked a 58-yard field goal—at that time, the 10th-longest ever by a high school player—at Shore Regional High in West Long Branch, N.J.; in the same game he booted a 52-yarder. That was enough to impress Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno. Mills was the Class of '85's premier kicker, and Paterno, who signed him, had good reason to believe that he had satisfied his field goal, extra point and kickoff needs for four years to come.
But Mills hasn't kicked so much as a point after for Penn State. "That's O.K.," says the relentlessly cheerful Mills. "I never thought of myself as a football player anyway. And this has taught me a lot of lessons: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Get your education. Don't bank on football. Life is unpredictable. When one avenue is cut off, go to another."