Coming from the storied Clairton (Pa.) football program, Tyler Boyd has always been a winner. The highly-touted Pitt freshman went 63-1 over his four-year career, including a 48-0 mark as a starter, and the Bears won four WPIAL titles and four PIAA Single A state championships during that time.
Boyd did his part for those teams by running for 5,755 yards and setting the western Pennsylvania touchdown record with 117 scores. Now he wants to bring that success to Pitt.
"I want to bring the same mentality here," he said. "I want to keep pushing everybody. Even though I'm not a senior leader, I can still make plays and build the offense and defense tempo-ing off each other. We just keep going at it. I just want the whole team to have the mindset that we can't lose."
Boyd has already added one victory to his college resume: an opportunity to start as a freshman. Over the last week, Boyd practiced with the first-team offense opposite top-returning receiver Devin Street, and while the incoming freshman hasn't officially locked up the starting job, he has made a great case to be the No. 2 receiver in 2013.
"I had to work and push myself to get that spot," he said. "I still don't think I have everything down pat, so everyday I keep coming out here, trying to work harder and harder, try to get everything right, everything crisp for the big game Sept. 2."
He added: "I'm not going to say that I'm a starter yet. I just know I'm getting the reps with the first team, so I'm just going to keep going and getting better. So when my name is called for the first game, I can be first team out there too, so I'll keep working and working. I don't think I've got the job yet, but I'm just going to keep working."
Boyd definitely needs to keep refining his game, but he has impressed the coaches with his skill through the first two weeks of camp.
Although he never played the position in high school, the incoming freshman has made a smooth transition to full-time receiver. "Smooth" is a good descriptor because it also describes his route-running and overall athleticism.
Boyd has caught up to the college game's speed during team drills, and his hands have been solid, showing why he was a 2013 Army All-American through his superior athleticism and play-making ability.
Of course, all these qualities didn't necessarily guarantee a starting job for Boyd. But he has made the most of his opportunities and has earned a chance to start.
"I knew nothing was going to be handed to me, and I'd have to come out here and work for everything I wanted and needed," Boyd said. "I just came out here and pushed myself, everyone else pushed me, the defense pushed me to go through my blocks and get off my routes and everything. I think that's helped me get more opportunities to get in there."
He added later: "I had expectations that I would, but not as soon as I did. You never know when you're numbers going to be called, so I just made sure I was ready, studied the plays from day one, so when they called on me, I was ready."
Make no mistake about it: Boyd is still adjusting to the role of being full-time college receiver, and the intricacies and perfection demanded from the position are still challenging for him. Whereas Boyd had a single route to run in high school, he now has to know the entire route concept while making adjustments during the play based on coverages.
The freshman receiver has put in extra time on everything - film study, weight room, staying after practice, taking mental reps if he's not on the field - to continue improving, and he has also been helped by the upper classmen with the offense's nuances.
Still, he knows he has a long way to go.
"Even on my best routes, I've got things to fix on," he said. "If I beat the defensive back and get a good catch, get up the field, there's still something in there I've got to fix, so nothing I'm doing is really great play. I just have to keep working, so I'm not good, I've got to be great."
The coaches recognize Boyd's work ethic. They're not surprised at how quickly he has acclimated to the college game, but they appreciate his effort throughout camp, getting up to speed. Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said Boyd continues to learn the offense and work toward a full understanding of everything, but he likes what he's seen.
"I've been more than impressed with him, not only in his ability, but who he is as a person," Rudolph said. "His approach, his demeanor when he does something well, his demeanor when he does something poorly, he just seems to be 'next play.' It's great.
"He's made the play when the play's been there. He's played fast. His understanding is what you always worry about, and it's really coming along. He shows a great reception area to catch the ball. The speed he plays at, I mean he has a chance to do a really nice job for us this year."
Just like the coaches, Boyd has high expectations for himself this season. Street is the only proven threat returning to Pitt's depleted passing game, and Boyd could provide an effective second option. The freshman receiver isn't putting too much pressure on himself, but he is working to make an impact.
More than anything, Boyd's not concerned as much with himself this season. He wants to bring his winning attitude to Pitt and help this program get to the next level.
"Definitely (to) be one of the top receivers," Boyd said about his goals for the season. "Beside the statistics, I just want to help my team be good, go to a good bowl game, have a good record, win about nine or 10 games. All the other individual stats will come later on, but first, I want to be a team player."
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