Phoebus' Lyles accepts a challenge at Best of 757 combine

Just as passing drills at Saturday's Best of the 757 football combine at Christopher Newport University were about to break up, a voice from the defensive secondary called out to Phoebus High linebacker Justin Lyles, who was standing nearby.

"Hey, Phoebus," the voice implored from the middle of a pack of players. "Hey, Phoebus. We need another DB out here. C'mon."

At 5-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Lyles isn't what anybody would refer to as a prototypical defensive back. Regardless, Lyles chuckled and jogged on the field to cover a wide receiver in the slot. He didn't get to make a play on the ensuing pass, but he held his own moving his feet with the receiver he was covering.

For a guy still waiting for his first scholarship offer, any chance to show some skills anywhere on the field is welcome.

"Anybody that calls me out, I'm not going to back down from a challenge," said Lyles, who plays inside linebacker for the Phantoms and who earned second team All-Eastern Region honors last season as a junior. "I'm going to play any position you want me to play."

Lyles was one of more than 210 participants at the combine, which consisted almost entirely of players from the Peninsula and the Southside. When the day was over, he was named to the 20-member all-combine team.

"This is just a camp," said Lyles, who has started since his sophomore year. "I'd like to put the shoulder pads and the helmet on. When I put the pads on, nobody can play with me."

Lyles said he has had contact with coaches from Old Dominion, Penn State, Michigan State, Marshall, Massachusetts and Navy. He added the most promising discussions he has had thus far have been with ODU's coaches.

He plans to go to camps at Virginia, ODU, Hampton University, Penn State, Maryland and Coastal Carolina. With a 2.5 grade point average, Lyles is just waiting to get a qualifying score on his SAT, which he took last weekend.

"I know I'm going to play ball somewhere," Lyles said.

Lyles was joined on the all-combine team by several Peninsula District players, including Phoebus running back Atavius Matthews, Bethel High receivers Willie Davis and Rashawn Proctor and Kecoughtan High linebackers Keith Hill and Richie Staton. Offensive lineman Bryan Ransom from Christchurch School also made the all-combine squad.

In the individual Nike Sparq training portion of the combine, Tabb High's Joe Nelson won the power ball toss event. He heaved the roughly 6 1/2-pound ball 41 feet from his knees.

Nelson, a 6-foot-0, 243-pound junior who was a second team All-Bay Rivers District linebacker last season, is also hoping to garner some scholarship attention this spring and summer. He has had contact with coaches from Virginia Military Institute and Navy.

"I'm definitely looking for great academic schools," said Nelson, who had never even attempted a power ball toss prior to Saturday's combine. "My parents would want me to look for that in a school."

While Nelson turned heads with his power ball effort, Grassfield High's Avery Thompson won the combine award in the 40-yard dash (4.36 seconds). York High's Jake Norman took the vertical jump award (38.1 inches).

Western Branch High's Tyrique Booth had the best shuttle effort (4.02 seconds). Great Bridge High's Tony Williams nailed down the fastest time in the obstacle course for linemen (24.7 seconds).

The most highly-regarded player in recruiting circles among the combine participants was Norfolk Christian's Kwontie Moore, a linebacker who committed last week to U.Va. He participated in linebacker drills, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds and registered a power ball toss of 35 1/2 feet. He didn't do the vertical jump or the shuttle.

Like Lyles and Nelson, Denbigh High junior receiver Paul Gostomski was another combine participant looking to attract that first scholarship offer. He posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.9 seconds, a shuttle time of 4.44 seconds, a power ball toss of 31 1/2 feet and a vertical jump of 24.9 inches.

"I'm trying to go to all these camps," said Gostomski, who led the Peninsula District last season with 49 catches for 646 yards and eight touchdowns. "I didn't really get to any camps last year. I didn't play (football) in my sophomore year, so now is the time I'm putting in as much as I can."

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