When he closes his eyes, Michael Dyer can still hear the voices, the ones that changed his life and the course of Auburn's 2010 season. The sophomore also hears them when he watches replays of the BCS championship game with a dozen or so of his teammates.
With just over two minutes remaining and the score tied at 19, Dyer took a handoff from QB Cam Newton on the Auburn 40-yard line. After a six-yard gain, Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant pulled Dyer down. Thinking the play was over, everyone on the field stopped for a few heartbeats. But Dyer, whose knee never touched the ground, heard his coaches yell from the sideline, "Go! Go! Go!" He took off, picking up 31 more yards before he was brought down from behind. Five plays later, Auburn's Wes Byrum kicked the decisive field goal in a 22--19 victory. "Mike never gave up and kept pushing ahead," says Auburn coach Gene Chizik. "Certainly, going forward he's going to be a key player for us and a big part of our offense this season."
For the Tigers to contend in the SEC West, Dyer must have a monster season. Gone are Heisman Trophy winner Newton, Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley and 16 other starters. This year's squad will be inexperienced, but loaded with young talent, headlined by Dyer. Last year the 5'9", 206-pound superball of a back rushed for an Auburn freshman-record 1,093 yards, surpassing Bo Jackson's mark of 829 in 1982.
During the spring and early summer, Dyer worked to increase his speed, running wind sprints as well as resistance sprints that had him tethered to blocking sleds. "It seems like Michael is getting stronger and faster every day," says defensive end Nosa Eguae.
After Dyer rushed for 2,502 yards and 31 TDs as a senior at Little Rock Christian Academy in 2009, Scouts Inc. named Dyer the nation's top back. He chose Auburn because he wanted to play in coordinator's Gus Malzahn's fast-paced single-back offense. "My first year here couldn't have gone any better," Dyer says. "Now we've got a lot of work to do."
With his BCS drop-and-dash, Dyer's place in Tigers history is safe. But he'll have to wait at least a year before he can help them earn another SEC title.