Keith Lyle spent nine years in the National Football League, most of them for the St. Louis Rams during the late 90's, as a free safety. But Lyle, remembered in the Northern Region by those that coached against him as incredibly fast, was an impressive high school quarterback before heading to the University of Virginia.
"We had a great coaching staff and the athletes, like anywhere else you get momentum going, and everyone has a goal in mind to make it to the playoffs," said former Marshall fullback and eventual Virginia Tech football player Joe Swarm — who went to the state finals and state semis with the Statesmen's Great Falls District championship teams in the two years before Lyle arrived.
By the time Lyle and his brother Brian — a receiver — moved to the Marshall school district, the Statesmen had already won two Great Falls District titles but had just graduated quarterback Lonnie Goldberg from those successful runs. With Lyle given the reins, there was no dropoff.
"Lonnie graduated and there was an opening," said Swarm of the quarterback position. "He was well-grounded. There wasn't any arrogance. Keith had a great sense of humor...his genes were great."
Lyle's father, a former NFL player himself, would work out his sons on the weekends.
The work paid off in two more Great Falls District championships for the Statesmen.
Lyle, both a QB and defensive back for the Statesmen, was described by long-time Yorktown football coach Bruce Hanson as "big and could throw the ball and run," Hanson said quite simply.
Lyle was simply dominant in doing the simple things — throwing and running — better than anyone else. Lyle's arm, determination, and speed helped the Statesmen score more points and hold teams to the least amount of points scored during the 1989 season.
"Obviously, he was just a superior athlete," said former South Lakes high school football coach Bob Graumann, whose team finished 7-3 in 1990 — the final year Lyle and the Statesmen went on to win the Great Falls District title. "Defensive back-wise, you got nothing by him. You just threw the other way."
LYLE, WHO anchored Marshall's defense as a defensive back had a better understanding of where the ball was going to be thrown by opposing quarterbacks. He grew that understanding because of his time spent playing quarterback for the Statesmen. A 6-foot 1-inch, 185-pound high school senior, Lyle quarterbacked the Statesmen to the Great Falls District title over cross-town rival Madison in 1989 in an epic performance that added to, and helped foster, what used to be one of the most heralded rivalries in Northern Region football. It was Marshall's fourth consecutive Great Falls District title.
"Whenever it comes to Madison," Lyle said in the Nov. 9 1989 Great Falls Connection, "we don't look ahead. They come first."
Lyle, who rushed for 87 yards and threw for 35 yards in the 1989 Great Falls district title game, made sure that Marshall came out on top, scoring three touchdowns in the 27-7 victory over the Warhawks.
"Sometimes in a big ball game, the better players take it into their own hands. That's what he did," said former Marshall head coach Mike Skinner in the 1989 article. Skinner, now the coach at Centreville, watched as Lyle threw a 30-yard touchdown pass, ran for a 26-yard broken play that he turned into a touchdown, and a 16-yard touchdown run. He followed the third touchdown with a 2-point conversion to teammate Marlon Jones — one of his favorite targets during the Statesmen's successful early 90's run through the Great Falls District.
"And in the game of the season, Keith Lyle perhaps had the game of his life, scoring three of Marshall's touchdowns and making spectacular plays on both offense and defense," wrote Connection reporter Mindy McNew in the Nov. 16, 1989 article entitled One More Time: Statesmen No. 1.
HE ACCOUNTED FOR 122 of Marshall's 334 offensive yards and helped the Statesmen become the highest scoring team in the Great Falls District with 279 points scored in the 9-2 overall record they had accumulated. Marshall was also the best defensive team in the Great Falls District that year with only 107 points allowed. Lyle was named a first-team all-district selection as a defensive back and as a quarterback. He was also a first-team all-region quarterback and second team all-region defensive back that season. Marshall bowed out of the Northern Region playoffs with a 21-17 upset loss to Gunston District contender Edison in the next game. Lyle finished with 1,130 passing yards and 13 touchdowns (3 INT) while rushing for 559 yards (9 TD) in his senior season. His defensive statistics could not be found. The University of Virginia took notice and after a successful run at the University of Virginia, Lyle — who was drafted 71st overall in the seventh round by the then-Los Angeles Rams — recorded 425 tackles and five sacks in 136 games played over nine seasons in the NFL. He spent seven seasons with the Rams. Lyle returned home for a season with the Washington Redskins in 2001 before playing his final season with the San Diego Chargers in 2002. Lyle recorded 67 tackles in 16 games during St. Louis's Super Bowl run in 2000.
Marshall High School's football team produced some of the most famous and successful coaches in the Northern Region's history. During the mid-1980's and late-1990's, the football staff included the following coaches, who have gone on to be head coaches at the following places:
Mike Skinner, Centreville
Skinner has been competitive in every year that he has coached in the Northern Region. He is one of the most respected coaches in the Northern Region and just this past season implemented a no-huddle offense that carried Centreville to an 8-2 finish.
Pete Bendorf, South County
Took Oakton to the AAA state title game before becoming a DSA. He is now the head football coach at South County.
Mark Bendorf, Robinson
Has guided Robinson to two Virginia AAA state championships.
Neil Callahan, Marshall
Was recently inducted into Marshall High School's Hall of Fame.
Mark Gjormand, Madison
Has guided Madison's baseball team to a state title and was recently named the AAA state coach of the year.
Keith Lyle is in a survey of the area's Top 47 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.