Boykin Makes His Mark at Crowded WR Spot
by Mike Conklin
August 26, 2012
Meat Hooks. Boat Oars. Oven Mitts. Jarrett Boykin has heard them all.
"Go shake his hand," suggested Virginia Tech offensive line coach Curt Newsome. "Bear Claws."
Boykin takes it all in stride. He is used to a measure of good-natured ribbing about his massive 10 1/4 inch hands. In college no single nickname really stuck, because his teammates had too much fun thinking up new things to call him all the time.
"It just depends on whoever and what mood they're in," said Boykin when asked about the various nicknames. "It's crazy. It's nothing I really go around paying attention to, but people have just told me my hands were big my whole life. I just go with it."
The largest gloves Nike makes is XXXL, and they barely do the job. Boykin required a new set of gloves for every game in college, because he routinely ripped through them.
Boykin has put those massive hands to good use so far this training camp, and has been one of the pleasant surprises from this year's crop of undrafted rookies. Coming into this season, one of the most highly anticipated camp battles was supposed to be between Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel for a possible sixth wide receiver position. Boykin has looked better than both of them at times. He was one of the few bright spots during the Cleveland game, as he caught five passes for 63 yards in limited playing time. He has also caught the eye of the beat writers, who are able to watch him every day in practice.
"Day after day, practice after practice, a guy who continually catches every ball thrown to him is WR Jarrett Boykin," wrote the Journal-Sentinel's Tom Silverstein last week. "If there were an award for Mr. Consistency, the rookie from Virginia Tech would win it hands down."
If Boykin were the kind of player who read his own press clippings, that would likely make him smile. He prides himself on keeping his head down, showing up and working hard every day, and letting his play do the talking. Playing at a position where being a diva is almost the norm, Boykin is the opposite.
That suited Frank Beamer just fine. Now in his 26th year as head coach at Virginia Tech, Beamer's career win total of 251 leads all active FBS coaches. Despite the fact that he's a legend on campus, he would likely go unrecognized anywhere else in the country. He quietly goes about his business, taking the same steady-Eddie approach that would make Ted Thompson proud. They're not much for drama in Blacksburg, Virginia.
“Jarrett’s a quiet guy,” Coach Beamer said of Boykin. “But that’s good. He lets his play speak for itself...He's a guy who's just right for this program. He works hard, he doesn't say much, but he's productive. That's the kind we like hanging around here."
The description sounds eerily like what has become known in Wisconsin as "Packer People."
For his own part, Boykin never got caught up in the hype of being with a major college program, or even for becoming the all time leader in receptions and receiving yards in Hokies history (surpassing former Packer Antonio Freeman among others). He just keeps showing up for work every day.
"I don't like the attention too much," Boykin said, "because when people get caught up in the attention, that's when they start getting big-headed, start lacking focus and think everything's going to come easy. I've always had to work hard for everything.
"I look at myself as if I suck and I (have) something to prove."
Boykin had plenty to prove after putting up a pedestrian time of 4.74 in the 40-yard dash at the combine in February. Nobody expected him to be a burner, but is it difficult to overcome the "slow" label in the speed-happy NFL. Boykin was able to post a 4.57 at his pro day, but by that time the damage was already done. After being considered a fifth or sixth round prospect by most scouting services, Boykin went undrafted. The Jaguars signed him after the draft, but then cut him a week later after their rookie camp. Boykin ended up being invited to try out at the Packers rookie camp, and impressed the team enough to be signed to a contract. And he hasn't stopped impressing since.
"The Packers took a chance on him and they're glad they did," wrote Tom Silverstein. "He might not make the team, but somebody is going to want him after this camp is over."
With neither Borel nor Gurley having the kind of camp many expected and both missing time occasionally to minor injuries, Boykin has taken advantage of his opportunities. It may still be a reach to think he could actually make the roster, but the Packers would likely be happy to have him clear waivers so they could sign him to their practice squad. In his typical fashion, Boykin isn't taking anything for granted. He still wants to finish camp strongly to earn that spot, and believes he has plenty of competition with other long shot receivers like Dale Moss and Curenski Gilleylen also vying for the attention of the coaches.
“There’s a sense of urgency,” Boykin told Packer Report's Bill Huber. “I’ve always been urgent but even more now. It’s raise the level and my tempo a little bit more because the next couple of weeks are going to determine everything. Just go out there and play every play like it’s my last one.”
Whether it is in Green Bay or somewhere else, with the way Boykin has played so far through training camp this may not be the last time we see him on an NFL team.
Photo Credit: US Presswire