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Author and newspaperman Kyle Mooty has roots in Alabama but many connections in Arkansas.

He once studied journalism at the University of Arkansas, and his mother, Charlene Mooty, worked there as a dean in the home economics department. She was an assistant dean in the college of agriculture when she retired.

As a college student, Kyle got deeply involved in working at the Northwest Arkansas Times in Fayetteville and has been in journalism ever since.

He is now in the southeast part of Alabama, working as a newspaper general manager and editor.

His 2018 book, New Set of Downs, tells about how one person overcame incredible odds to gain a fresh start in life.

It's about the life of former Alabama running back Johnny Dyess, who played for the Crimson Tide under Coach Paul Bear Bryant from 1978-1981.

Alabama had much success then, as now, winning national championships in 1978 and 1979.

Arkansas fans may remember the disappointing 24-9 loss to Alabama in the 1980 Sugar Bowl, which allowed the Crimson Tide to complete a 12-0 season and secure a national championship.

Arkansas Coach Lou Holtz had a very good Razorback team that year, and he wrote in his 2006 autobiography, Wins, Losses, and Lessons, after that Sugar Bowl, Coach Bryant told him it was the best game that Alabama had played in five years.

It was indeed a dominating performance from start to finish.

But while New Set of Downs has much to learn from the world of football, it is not a book devoted solely to football.

Instead, it tells about the life of Dyess, and how -- with the help of his faith and some incredible support from others -- he overcame a life-threatening addiction to methamphetamine.

Mooty has written extensively about a lot of issues during his career. He knows all about collegiate football, the hopes of young athletes, and the failures that occur in almost every community when individuals go down the wrong pathway in life.

He knows that meth is more than just a criminal or social issue; it is an addiction that leads to death for almost all of those entangled in its grip.

Mooty had heard former drug users tell their story before; but when he met Dyess, he sensed that a drug recovery had occurred that was very different from others he had seen.

He wrote, "I knew I had come across someone whose story was, perhaps, more special than anything I had come across in my decades in the media business."

Dyess was successful enough in high school football to get a spot with Alabama, following in the footsteps of his Uncle Marlin "Scooter" Dyess, who had played for the Crimson Tide from 1957-1959.

For the younger Dyess, football at Alabama consumed his entire life; there was practically no time left to pursue anything else.

But after his playing days were over, there was a void. And he began to fill that void with different drugs, eventually discovering that meth gave him what he wanted.

This began a downward spiral -- addiction, cooking meth, drug dealing, failing to have a regular job and, eventually, the possibility of a long prison sentence.

Johnny Dyess had come from a good home with good parents, but meth took over his life, nonetheless.

He finally hit rock bottom when a drug raid at his house resulted in his arrest.

Johnny knew that everything had to change, but how?

All of the details are in New Set of Downs but, in short, were it not for the dedicated efforts of Christian people in at least two crucial ministries (one in Opelika, Ala., near Auburn; and the other in New York City) Johnny's life may have ended tragically.

But it didn't, and today -- as an assistant coach and head groundskeeper at Elba High School -- he is able to work with young people and speak to school and church groups.

The book tells of his journey, of how the transformation didn't just happen overnight, of how there was a process of healing, of growth, and of an opportunity to make things right. When Johnny tells his story, he makes it clear that God had his hand on the entire matter from start to finish.

It makes for a rich and meaningful book.

• • •

David Wilson, Ed.D., of Springdale, is a writer, consultant and presenter who grew up in Arkansas but worked 27 years in education in Missouri. He may be contacted by email at Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 06/13/2018

Print Headline: New Set of Downs tells of journey

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