Anger Management

By Bonitta Best
Updated: December 19, 2009

DURHAM — When I was growing up back in the Stone Age, the quickest way to get your butt beat was to talk about somebody’s mama.

It was one thing to call each other names, but as soon as those two damning works – “Yo Mama!” – were uttered, oh baby it was on!

Mishayla Iles would also go off when she heard two words, except her fists pumped at the sound of “Yo Daddy!”

Mishayla, a 14-year-old student at Martin Middle in Raleigh, is very protective of her father, Micheal Lyon.

Lyon is an ex-con who turned his life around after 48 stints in jail and three in prison.

But to Mishayla – and most girls who love their daddies – he can do no wrong. But Lyon’s constant absences took its toll. Instead of sugar and spice and everything nice, Mishayla would kick anybody’s tail that talked bad about her dad.

“People would say things about my dad, and they don’t even know him,” she said. “I feel like if you don’t know him, you have no right to sit there and judge him because you’ve seen him once or twice.”

You can probably guess what came next: school fights, failing grades and suspensions. Then one day, Martin Middle coach Jason Evans made an outlandish, improbable suggestion.

“He told me, ‘I think you should play football this year. I want you to come to tryouts,'” said Mishayla, who also plays basketball and runs track.

Of course, she made the team.

Anger and football go together like cookies and ice cream. Not to mention Mishayla, who played right tackle and right guard, is not exactly, uh, petite.

“She didn’t even tell us she tried out until she made the team,” said Lyon, who earlier this year was voted The Tribune’s father of the year. “It was a shock, but I just said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, put your all into it.’

“When I saw her tackle this big dude, I knew she’d be all right.”

Mishayla’s grades have improved dramatically now that she has a channel for her anger. But football can’t take all the credit. Her transformation began two to three years ago after she started attending the Raleigh Safety Club in Southeast Raleigh.

The club has after-school programs and offers a safe haven for neighborhood kids.

Youth services coordinator Joni Craven-Jeffries referred Mishayla’s story. “She is a nice young lady and she is trying, and that’s what I encourage her to do,” Jeffries said.

“Do the best that you can, and don’t let people tell you that you can’t be successful.”

Jeffries’ advice has also worked on Lyon, who realized his daughter was following in the wrong footsteps – his.

“I got angry, fought every day, didn’t care,” he said. “But then I started looking at ‘Shay and how she was watching me and doing the stuff I do. Now, I’m trying to show her that getting angry ain’t the solution. Who cares what people think?”

From dad to the Safety Club to football, Mishayla is finally listening.

“If you understand what I come from, you would understand exactly why I play football,” she said. “But the thing is to be positive. If another girl or dude comes up to you and says you can’t do this, prove them wrong.”