CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- By all accounts Michael Lyons is a model student. The quiet senior sets goals and stays focused, but the 18-year-old's passion is split between the classroom and gridiron.
“I work a lot. I work 24/7,” Michael said. “Kicking is everything.”
The senior at Matoaca High School loves booting the ball. In fact, field goals are his specialty. He kicks them consistently and constantly.
Michael isn't an athlete on the Warriors football team, but that isn't stopping him from competing.
“He is a go-getter. He knows what he wants and he works for it,” Patrick Manuel, Matoaca’s Football coach, said.
Matoaca Assistant Principal Gail Ledbetter said Michael is a great kid.
"You tell Michael something once you don’t have to worry about it again,” she said.
Priority Automotive offers a student a $5,000 scholarship and a laptop for the school if they kick a ball through the uprights and land it securely into the bed of a Toyota Tundra pickup. But the determined senior wanted to be the first.
He hounded Matoaca's Athletic Director Larry Stewart for his one shot.
“It has never happened before," Stewart explained. "He came by my office every day. ‘Am I going to kick? Am I going to kick? I said, 'Michael, You know what. You are going to kick.'"
Stewart and many others didn't hold out much hope, but they wanted to support Michael in his bid.
“His persistence won me over,” Stewart said.
So, Michael practiced and practiced and practiced.
“I’m looking at that one spot on the ball,” Michael said. “I dream about it every day.”
READ MORE: Matoaca student who kicked field goal into pickup lands $5,000 scholarship from Priority Automotive
Eight weeks after Larry Stewart gave him the green light, on a cold Oct. 24th, it was time for the moment of truth.
Before a crowd of thousands at Matoaca’s stadium, the young man would line up for the kick of his life.
“I was really nervous. I felt my legs were going to give out,” Michael said.
His thoughts were on the one person who wasn’t there. Michael’s beloved mother who passed away when he was eight.
“I was thinking about her and the kick at the same time,” Michael said.
With pressure mounting and nerves fraying, Michael would let it fly. No one at the school could believe it -- except the kicker himself.
“I was nervous we all were nervous," Assistant Principal Gail Ledbetter said. "I was standing up nervous. I wanted him to achieve it. I wanted him to achieve that goal.”
Athletic Director Larry Stewart says, “Michael kicked it. It was like predestined. It went in and it just stuck.”
The ball would land in the truck.
“I was like.. Uh oh. Uh oh. Uh oh. Oooooohhh! I was so excited,” Michael said.
What makes his kick that much more satisfying?
“My right leg is shorter than my left,” Michael said.
Yes, the young man who can kick a ball a country mile with precision does it while living with cerebral palsy.
Michael learned from an early age anything is possible.
The college-bound senior hopes his remarkable kick serves as an inspiration for those who think they can’t.
“No matter what stand up for yourself and keep trying,” Michael said. “Look at me, know I kicked a ball into a truck.”
Michael is a young man who vows never to let his disabilities prevent him from accomplishing many more remarkable feats.
“It feels good. It feels really good. It was the most exciting moment of my life," Michael said.
Michael will graduate from Matoaca High School next spring and will enroll in Richard Bland College next fall. Lyons hopes to transfer to Old Dominion University.
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