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Sitting in a small classroom nearly 120 miles from Lexington, in Prestonsburg, Ky., I and many of my classmates relished the benefits of a substitute teacher’s presence to partake in the drama that football’s national signing day brings to winter.
Just as was the case with Lexington, no sun was to be found, only excitement and anticipation of which teams were to be dunces of the nation’s most talented 17 and 18-year-olds.
Surrounded by an assortment of fandoms, the group’s one common denominator was an interest in whether UK could land the state’s most coveted recruit – Aaron Boyd.
The brother of former UK quarterback Shane Boyd, Aaron was one of the nation’s top wide receivers, a four-star in fact, who left Cats fans gleaming at the thought of landing a highly-touted recruit.
Since they are few and far between, Boyd’s ranking created a buzz long lost in the state’s recruiting scene. The likes of Oregon, Missouri and Arkansas were hot on his trail and supposedly climbing prior to his signing day announcement at Henry Clay High School.
Not long after the clock struck eleven that morning, Boyd sat at a table in his high school gym with two hats of importance getting the state’s spotlight shown on them. Neither had UK’s conjoined insignia featured on them. Instead, two black hats with the logos of Oregon and Missouri, respectively, were thought to be Boyd’s choices.
Being the playful personality he has become amongst the team, Boyd nearly caused a mass panic before unveiling a UK hat that was stuffed behind that of Oregon’s.
Fast forward into his fourth season as a Cat – not much was missed.
A combination of attitude and work ethic turned Boyd into punch line for many fans, and even media members.
The conclusion of his junior season brought his three-year cumulative stat line to six receptions for 51 yards.
His marred seasons at UK are incomparable to his fellow teammates of the 2008 class, which includes names such as Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Jonathan Baldwin. It’s probably a disservice to Boyd to list their stats because you know the end result for those now NFL wideouts.
Now in present day, seated in the UK press box at Commonwealth Stadium, I watched the prospective recruit finally have his own breakthrough.
Having shown his worth in practice and with a three reception, 36-yard career high the prior week in a loss to Louisville, Boyd was given his second career start against Kent State, the first since Oct. 18, 2008.
Appearing as if another player, offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said “”you could see he was a different guy in spring practice.”
“He finally made up his mind he wants to play football,” he said.
Boyd’s pledge to change required the 6-foot-4, 214-pound wide receiver to do more than simply use his hands; it required him to use his body to create openings for others, something for which head coach Joker Phillips voiced appreciation.
His Saturday start displayed him doing just that.
It helped sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith obtain 354 passing yards.
It helped junior running back Raymond Sanders rush for 115 yards; sophomore back Jonathan George for 52.
The vicious cycle in which Boyd knew no part of ultimately helped show the player that fans longed for on that dreary winter day four years go.
Completion after completion ensued with reception after reception. Boyd molded the game into his own.
Mere seconds into the second quarter Smith found Boyd sprinting toward the back of the end-zone, using his body to create space and jump for the Cats’ second score.
By halftime he has single-game statistics that surpassed his career total coming in to the game, with seven receptions for 73 yards.
When UK’s 47-14 offensive burst was completed, UK’s punch line was making history one of its own, finishing the game with 11 receptions for 100.
“It felt kind of weird but I had an adrenaline rush going and when the ball is coming my way, it’s my job to catch it. It’s what I was recruited to do,” Boyd said.
Some could call it fate, but just as his family surrounded him on signing day, they were present for Saturday’s game.
“My brother flew into town just to watch me start today. I just did whatever to play good in front of my family and fans,” Boyd said. “He’s always been a big inspiration to me, he’s my big brother.”
Once Aaron caught his touchdown, Shane tweeted his stats, followed by “#Mamatheregoesthatman.”
He went unlike he had since fans eagerly awaited him, but now that his confidence is raised with his last chance to make an impact, Aaron wants to continue where he left off because, “I’ve never been taught to give up, just finish what you started in life…” he said, “but I’m not done. I want to keep this thing going and act like I’ve been there before.”