Thus far in his young life, Hart Lee Dykes has excelled at things in series of three. When we first came across him (SI Aug. 8, 1977), he was just another of the precocious tykes who crop up in FACES IN THE CROWD: winner of the national Punt, Pass and Kick competition in his age group (nine) and, a few months later, of the national Pitch, Hit and Run contest. He was 5'6", 105 pounds, and already had his name inscribed on plaques in Canton and Cooperstown.
Now Dykes is 18 and a 6'5", 215-pound senior set on winning another state football championship for Bay City (Texas) High. Where he comes from, that passes for Fame, Honor and Glory. Nowadays Dykes's game is Sprint, Curl and Cradle. Last season he caught 42 passes for 1,396 yards as the Black Cats, operating out of a run-oriented veer, went 15-0 and won their first state class 4A title. With one regular-season game to go this year—and the Black Cats still ground-minded—Dykes has 25 catches for 700 yards and seven touchdowns, plus two more TDs on interceptions (he plays safety on defense). Last Friday the Black Cats clinched the district championship by beating Brazosport 28-13 for their ninth victory of this undefeated season. The win was Bay City's 24th in a row. Dykes caught three passes for 92 yards and ran back an interception 35 yards for a touchdown.
National recruiting analyst Max Emfinger lists Dykes as the top receiver prospect in the nation. "Although he's been double-teamed and sometimes even triple-teamed this season, he can still come up with the big play," Emfinger says. "Some players may be faster, but none is taller or has that athletic ability."
Dykes isn't merely an outsized wide-out. As a sophomore he was all-district in baseball (as a hard-throwing southpaw), and last year he was all-state in basketball (as a 20-points-, 16-rebounds-per-game center). Besides playing wide receiver and free safety, this fall he's running back punts and is ready to play quarterback in a pinch. Every now and then he evokes memories of his storied prepubescence—he always racked up most of his points in the passing and throwing portions of the two contests—on end-around option plays when he flings breathtaking passes.
In Bay City's season opener against 5A Lamar Consolidated (5A denotes the state's largest schools), Dykes caught only one pass. But he recovered a fumble, made six unassisted tackles and, when the Black Cats faced a third-and-five at their own 25 early in the fourth quarter—score tied at 7-7—made the play of the game. After taking a pitchout in the backfield, he hurled the ball some 65 yards to reserve flanker Bob Gibson. The play set up running back Ricky Davidson's winning touchdown dive. The next week, playing just the first half, Dykes caught five passes for 126 yards and two TDs as Bay City routed Victoria 45-0.
Find a kid whose stats in the 40 (4.65) and the classroom (3.6) are only a whole number apart, and you'll find almost 100 colleges on his trail. Find, too, someone to whom fame came early, and you'll often discover an inflated sense of self-importance. Not so with Dykes. "Going through all he did at nine, he's had his fill of being awed by publicity and attention," says Ron Mills, his coach. Says Dykes, "Right now I just want to win the state. I tell Coach not to tell me if a scout's there."
Dykes is polite, even-tempered and strolls the halls of Bay City High toting a leather briefcase and wearing a funky baseball cap. "So-phis-ticated!" a classmate teases him.
"Look who's going to college," he replies, ever serious.
Skinny, pigeon-toed and stoop-shouldered as a kid, Dykes looked like a barker at a science fair. Still, he swept through the local, district, zone and regional qualifying for Punt, Pass and Kick and won the title in Texas Stadium on national TV at halftime of a Cowboys-Rams game. The next summer he ignored the skepticism of his mother, Rita—"She said I was so pigeon-toed I'd never get around the bases fast enough," he says—and reached the national Pitch, Hit and Run finals, which he won in Yankee Stadium before the All-Star Game. He would have loved to have entered a basketball competition, too, but, he says, "They never had Hotshot [the closest thing to a hoops equivalent] around here."
"He's got excellent hands and good speed for his size," says Mills. "And his height and basketball skills help a lot." In the 1983 4A playoffs against Willow-ridge, Parade magazine's preseason No. 1 team in the nation and winner of 27 straight games, Dykes caught seven passes, one for a score, and made an interception as Bay City romped 42-0. "They kicked 'em like a stepchild," says Bill McMurray, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle who has followed Texas football for nearly 30 years. "This year Bay City may be the best team in the state, regardless of classification."
In Bay City, a town of 17,837 that's 70 miles southwest of Houston, fans turn out as much to see senior flanker Joe De-Loach as Dykes. DeLoach, 17, ran a wind-aided 10.00 in the 100 at the state meet in May (his best legal time is 10.38) and won gold medals in the 100, 200 and sprint relay at the Pan Am Junior Games in the Bahamas this summer. Although DeLoach has more impressive credentials than Carl Lewis had at the same age, Mills has a strange lament: "For years I could say, 'We don't have the fastest kids in the world, but we get the job done.' I can't say that anymore."
He can say he has the most formidable set of receivers in the nation who also worry about grades; DeLoach is a 3.1 student. "We'll send Joe deep a lot," says Mills, "and the other team will have to have two men chasing him. And if they don't have two on Hart Lee, we'll hit him. It's simple thinking, but it wins ball games." Adds Dykes, "Joe makes the defense back off. In the end something will open up, if not with one of us, then with the tight end, he being my little brother." Sophomore Billy Sean Dykes, hardly little at 6'3" and 245 pounds, is also a versatile athlete. He played first base for the Bay City team that went to the 1984 Babe Ruth World Series at Niles, Mich., finishing fourth.
In college Dykes plans to put basketball and baseball on hold in favor of football—Emfinger sees him as a tight end—at a pass-oriented school. "Somewhere my talents fit in," Dykes says. "Not a place where it's third-and-long and then they'll throw."
Schools like Stanford, UCLA, Texas and Notre Dame have been mentioned, but if Dykes knows which it'll be, he's not letting on. Dykes did, however, work last summer for a local drilling company owned by a Bay Citian named Tom Richards. He's a graduate of Texas A&M.