- Kelly Naqi
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Willie Lyles, a Texas-based football trainer who is under NCAA investigation after receiving $25,000 from Oregon, told Texas A&M it had to "beat" $80,000 if it wanted to sign star recruit Patrick Peterson in 2007, a former Texas A&M coach told ESPN on Wednesday.
Van Malone, the former cornerbacks coach at Texas A&M, told ESPN that Lyles phoned him in 2007 after Peterson had visited the College Station, Texas, campus.
"A few days after the kid's visit, Will calls and says, 'If you want this kid, there are other schools that want this kid as well. They're willing to pay a certain amount of money, around the $80,000 mark,'" Malone said. "He said that was something we were going to have to beat as a university to be able to obtain the services of this kid."
Peterson originally committed to the University of Miami but ended up signing with LSU. Now a junior, he has declared for the NFL draft and is the No. 1 player on ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper's Big Board.
Malone is the recruiting coordinator and defensive secondary coach at the University of Tulsa. He said he told Lyles that A&M doesn't pay for football players. Malone added he told Peterson in a subsequent phone conversation that Lyles was trying to sell his services.
Peterson, in a statement issued through LSU, said: "I have never had any type of relationship with Willie Lyles and he had no influence on my decision to attend LSU, or any other school for that matter. He had no involvement with my recruiting process and I resent the fact that my name has come up in these allegations. I chose LSU because it's a great school with a great football program. I never received nor was I offered anything to go to LSU and anyone saying otherwise is being dishonest."
Lyles could not be reached Wednesday night.
Peterson said he remembers meeting Lyles at a USC football camp, but "[Lyles] basically said hi," according to Peterson's agent, Patrick Lawlor. Added Lawlor: "I can assure you Patrick had no idea about anyone shopping him."
Lawlor said Peterson and his father, Patrick Peterson Sr., told him that they did not know anything about Lyles shopping the cornerback's commitment.
"They are both shocked," Lawlor said.
Peterson Sr. said he remembers taking the visit with his son to Texas A&M.
Peterson Sr. described his son's visit as a good trip. But he said he had a feeling his son would end up playing in the Southeastern Conference, not the Big 12. He said he had not heard any allegations that Lyles was asking schools for money for his son.
"This is my first time hearing this. This is a shocker," Peterson Sr. told ESPN. "It could have happened. It could have come out of [Lyles'] mouth, that's what happens. These guys try to make money on their own, they are kind of like escort services. That's what I call them, escort services."
Peterson Sr. said he has talked to Lyles at some football camps, but other than that, he said he has no relationship with Lyles. He said Lyles, when they've talked, has often asked him for information on players from Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla., which is his son's alma mater.
"It's like Cam Newton, same thing," Peterson Sr. said, referring to the Heisman Trophy winner and former Auburn quarterback whose father was found to have asked for up to $180,000 for Newton to play at Mississippi State. "These guys -- they are trying to get paid. You have to be careful who you talk to, who you deal with it. I just know him [Lyles] from the camps."
Former LSU assistant coach Earl Lane, who handled Peterson's recruitment, said he did not have dealings with Lyles in the recruiting process in an interview with ESPN's Joe Schad.
"There's a lot of rumor and innuendo," said Lane, who has been out of coaching for the past two years. "But I believe in doing things the right way and on the up-and-up."
Lane said he's heard of Lyles but "if the guy walked right in front of me right now I wouldn't know who he is."
Lane said neither Peterson nor his father ever brought up money and never mentioned anyone else who had.
Lane said Peterson reneged on a commitment to Miami after visiting with LSU's academic staff and experiencing a Saturday night game at LSU.
"It was overwhelming for him and his parents," Lane said. "Anytime you have a top-ranked player who goes to another school there will be some sour grapes and things said."
Lane coached some of the best players in the SEC this decade, including Peterson, Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, but said he's left coaching for the past two years to care for his father.
A Texas A&M spokesman said the university was unaware of Malone's comments about Lyles. Malone said he never told then-Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione about Lyles' request because he planned to continue to recruit Peterson without going through Lyles.
Earlier, LSU officials confirmed the school paid $6,000 to Complete Scouting Services, a college recruiting firm that Lyles started early last year. An LSU spokesman said the school did receive a DVD from Lyles in exchange for the $6,000.
The NCAA is looking into Oregon's $25,000 payment to Lyles' firm and his involvement in the recruitment of running back Lache Seastrunk, of Temple, Texas, who ended up signing with the Ducks a few weeks before Oregon paid Complete Scouting Services. Oregon has confirmed it paid for Lyles' scouting service.
Peterson, who changed his last name from Johnson, was considered the top defensive back in the nation during his senior year in high school in 2007.
Kelly Naqi is an investigative reporter for ESPN. Information from ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad is included in this report.