Robert Lyles had a long career playing and coaching in professional teams (Courtesy photo)

Belmont alum and former NFL player Robert Lyles needs a heart transplant. This past summer, he had multiple strokes which led him to Baylor St. Luke hospital in Texas. In September, he had surgery to put in a temporary device to help pump blood.

The alumni of Belmont came together at the start of the football season and had a rally on his behalf to raise funds. After receiving the temporary pump, he was put on a waitlist for a heart transplant. Doctors will check on him in regards to the pump in a year.

While the surgery was a success and Lyles was able to leave the hospital, his insurance will not cover all his medical expenses. His supporters created a GoFundMe for Lyles to fundraise $100,000, it currently stands at $69,330.

Prior to playing for the NFL, Lyles was a member of the 1979 graduating class at Belmont. Classmate James Bolden noted how he was a leader of the Sentinels football team as early as his sophomore year.

Related Stories

Crenshaw Reaches City Section Championship After Beating Manual Arts

Student Athlete of the Week: Stephan Blaylock

“He just became an instant leader, even over seniors,” Bolden said. “He had some knowledge and wisdom, but he knew the game.”

During his eight seasons with the NFL, he played for the Atlanta Falcons and the Houston Oilers. He also played for the Tampa Bay Storm and the Memphis Pharaohs. Despite his busy schedule, he would find ways to check up with his high school friends, according to Bolden.

“I remember a couple of birthday parties that were planned and he’d just show up over the weekend,” he said. “He would support the things that we were doing.”

Lyles also had a career as a coach, he was the defensive coordinator of the arena football team the L.A. Avengers. In 2001, he became interim head coach.

“They fired the head coach, they were losing, [Lyles] took over the team as the interim head coach. They went 5-1 with [Lyles],” Bolden said. “He didn’t get the head coach spot … he turned the whole organization around and he didn’t get the position.”

His NFL insurance has run out and payment for surgeries and other medical expenses are coming out of pocket.

“We’re raising this money to help him with his initial expenses and to pay his rent,” Bolden said.

Bolden reached out to several different organizations for help, including the NFLPA, Texas Christian University, and the NFL Retired Players Association.

To donate to Robert Lyles, please visit