EUGENE, Ore. — Former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla, who left the second-ranked Ducks earlier this month following a one-game suspension for violating team rules, was in custody Thursday after his arrest on drug-related charges in Eugene.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement that Lyerla was observed by a drug investigation unit snorting a white powdery substance while sitting in a parked car Wednesday. The 20-year-old Lyerla was arrested on suspicion of unlawful possession of cocaine and interfering with a police officer.
When he decided to leave the Ducks, Lyerla said it was to pursue an NFL career. He had been suspended for Oregon’s Oct. 5 game at Colorado by coach Mark Helfrich for an unspecified violation of team rules.
At the time, Lyerla told Oregon’s athletics website, GoDucks.com, that his withdrawal from school had nothing to do with that suspension.
“I love everyone at Oregon; everyone’s on good terms, I believe,” Lyerla said. “Just for my own benefit, it was time to move on.”
Along with missing Oregon’s 57-16 victory over the Buffaloes, he also sat out Oregon’s 59-14 win over Tennessee earlier this season because of illness. Oregon does not disclose injuries, so after the game Helfrich described his absence as “circumstances.”
Lyerla then complained to The Oregonian newspaper that he felt the description could be unfairly interpreted. He later apologized for airing his frustration publicly and said he never meant to be a distraction. Both he and Helfrich said they’d discussed the matter and moved on.
The former star from Hillsboro High School, west of Portland, caught three passes for 26 yards as a junior for the Ducks this season. For his career, he had 34 receptions for 565 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“If he felt this was best for him, that’s OK. We talked about it and we moved on,” Helfrich said a day after Lyerla left the program. “We wished him absolutely nothing but the best, and he wished us nothing but the best. There was no `smoking gun,’ so to speak.”
Lyerla also landed in the doghouse this summer after he tweeted support of conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. One of his posts concerned the parents of the young victims.
The school issued a strongly worded statement condemning the post.
“Twitter posts attributed to student-athlete Colt Lyerla concerning the tragedy at Sandy Hook are insensitive and offensive, especially those devastated by the shootings, and we have communicated as much to Colt,” the statement said.
He also missed the first several days of fall camp his sophomore year for personal reasons.
After his arrest Wednesday, Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff wrote on Twitter: “God be with my former teammate!!!”
The Lane County Sheriff’s office release said detectives were working on an unrelated case when they observed Lyerla.
“Lyerla was contacted by police and admitted to using and possessing cocaine,” said the release, prepared by Sgt. Steve French.
Detectives arranged to meet Lyerla at his residence to continue the investigation, but once there he ran from his car into a nearby apartment, the release said. He was arrested when he emerged a short time later.
Lyerla was being held in the Lane County Jail on Thursday.