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Martin Anthony Lyons (born January 15, 1957) is a former American college and professional football player who played for eleven seasons in the National Football League, including in the 1970s and 1980s.
Lyons played college football for the University of Alabama and received All-American honors.
He was drafted in the first round of the 1979 NFL Draft and spent his entire professional career with the New York Jets.
He was a participant of the "New York Sack Exchange," the Jets' most popular front four in 1981 and 1982, which also included Mark Gastineau, Abdul Salaam, and Joe Klecko.
Lyons grew up in Pinellas Park, Florida, and attended St. Petersburg Catholic High School.
While a Jets fan, a string of events — the birth of his eldest son, the death of his father, and the death of a teenage boy to whom Lyons had been a Big Brother — inspired him to create the Marty Lyons Foundation to help terminally ill children. In 1984, Walter Payton Man of the Year Award was awarded as a result of his efforts. Lyons was named the recipient of the Heisman Humanitarian Award in December 2011 for his contributions to his Foundation.
Lyons is now the Jets' radio analyst and chairman of the Marty Lyons Foundation. He has been inducted into the State of Alabama's Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame (2001) and the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame (2006), as well as the College Football Hall of Fame (2011).
Lyons obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama during winter commencement ceremonies on December 10, 2016.
Jesse, Megan, and Lucas are three children of Lyons and his partner, Christine. Rocky, his only child from his first marriage, is a physician in Alabama.
Lyons played for the University of Alabama, where he competed for coach Bear Bryant's Alabama Crimson Tide football team from 1975 to 1978. He had 202 tackles, 6 fumbles fumbled, and 4 recovered at Alabama. As a senior in 1978, he was named as a consensus first-team All-American and was part of the Crimson Tide to a National Championship. In the 1979 Sugar Bowl, he was a key figure in the development of "The Goal Line Standoff." It was Lyons who had what would become a popular line among Alabama fans just before the sequence's fourth-down play. Lyons replied, "Bout a foot" when asked by Penn State quarterback Chuck Fusina how far the ball was from the goal line. You should have a pass." During his time as a player, Alabama was 31-5.
Lyons was selected by the New York Jets in the first round (14th overall pick) of the 1979 NFL Draft. Mark Gastineau, a defensive end for East Central Oklahoma State, was selected in the following round.
The two joined Joe Klecko and Abdul Salaam on the Jets' defensive line to create one of the NFL's best defensive lines, the "New York Sack Exchange." In 1981, the foursome combined for 66 sacks, which helped the Jets to their first playoff appearance since 1969. Salaam, Gastineau, Klecko, and Lyons were all invited to ring the formal opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in November 1981, which provided them with their nickname.
During Lyons' time with the Jets, they made the playoffs for the second time in 1982, 1985, and 1986. They made it as far as the AFC Championship Game in 1982, losing 14-0 to the Miami Dolphins.
Lyons was involved in one of the best-known plays in NFL lore. During the Jets' 14-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills at the Meadowlands on October 5, 1986, they attempted to smear Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly and then started to punch him repeatedly after the ball was called out for an incompletion. Referee Ben Dreith was chastised for "giving him the company." Rather than calling Lyons' number 93, Dreith incorrectly assessed the foul against number 99, which was Gastineau's number, rather than calling Lyons' number 93.
When his wife, Kelly, and his son, Martin Anthony "Rocky" Lyons Jr., were involved in a serious traffic accident in Alabama, Lyons missed playing time during the 1987 season. Lyons blocked former Alabama teammates and Hall of Famer Dwight Stephenson in what Dolphins players and coaches called a 'cheap shot' that ended his career later this season. Dwight Stephenson said it was a clean block, claiming that he caught his leg as he went down and never blamed Lyons for the injury.