THE WAITING GAME
About 40 people assembled at the Boykin household on draft weekend.
He had rehabbed his injury and felt his tape would prevent a free fall. Boykin wasn’t expecting to go in the first round, but on Day 2, he sat in front of the TV and saw name after name get called. His phone didn’t ring.
"It was frustrating because he saw some kids go before him that weren’t his talent," said Alfred. "Because he got hurt was the reason he fell like that. He was frustrated."
Added Lisa: "It was very devastating because I knew again my child had prepared all his life for this, and here he’s gone through two days and his name hasn’t been called. On the third day, we’re halfway through, and they still haven’t called my son’s name. It was just hard seeing him hear name after name called."
During the fourth round, Boykin decided he couldn’t stare at the TV any longer. He left his parents’ house and went over to his girlfriend’s. In all, 12 cornerbacks and 122 players were selected ahead of him.
With the 28th pick in the fourth round, Howie Roseman finally made the call. But on the other end, he didn’t hear Boykin’s voice. Instead, it was his Dad, Alfred, saying hello.
"When they drafted me, they called my Dad’s cell phone because they didn’t have my cell phone number," Boykin explained. "My parents called me and said, 'The Eagles just called Dad! They’re about to draft you! You need to come back home!' Talked to them on my Dad’s phone. I didn’t get the draft call like everybody wants."
Added Alfred: "We were sitting there looking at the draft on television, and the phone rang. That day, I didn’t answer any phone calls. My phone had been ringing the whole time, but I didn’t want to be bothered with anybody. But for some reason, I grabbed the phone and I answered it. It was a Philadelphia number, which I didn’t know. I just answered the phone. …Then I ran to see where Brandon was, and he was out of the house. I didn’t know where he was. He left the premises. I think he was upset because he had to sit so long. He wasn’t expecting to sit so long."
It was pandemonium at the Boykin household when he returned. He had conversations with Roseman, Andy Reid, Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles.
The wait wasn’t easy. Boykin knew he was better than many of the guys taken ahead of him. He understood the injury cost him, but it was time to leave the past behind and go to work.
Boykin won the nickel job as a rookie. The Eagles, however, suffered one of their most dysfunctional seasons in recent memory, going 4-12. Year 2 would be a different story.
Boykin’s leverage was off. The Cowboys had the ball at their own 32 with 1:49 left. The Eagles were clinging to a two-point lead, and the NFC East title was on the line.
It was man coverage. Boykin lined up about 3 yards off the line of scrimmage and was matched up against Miles Austin. The veteran receiver ran straight at him before breaking inside on a slant.
"I was caught off-guard because I didn’t have the exact leverage that I wanted," Boykin said. "I tried to get my leverage back, and as soon as I looked up, I saw the ball coming, and it almost looked like it was coming to me. I accidentally got in the right position. I caught it with one hand and it stuck to my chest. I was just worried about securing it. I looked up and saw Connor Barwin like, ‘Get down! Get down!’ So in my mind, I thought I was running around for a long time before getting down, but looking at the film, it happened like that [snaps fingers]. It was a blur."
In the NFL, there is always an alternate universe. What if Kyle Orton completed two or three passes and got the Cowboys into field goal range? What if the Eagles dropped two of their last three games and missed the playoffs? How is the discussion in Philadelphia different this offseason?
Boykin benefited partially from a bad throw, but when there was a play to be made, he came through. As he headed for the sideline, he was greeted by Kelly.
"I just remember him hugging me, and then I hugged him and I looked at him, and he had half of my eye black smeared all over his face," said Boykin. "But it was a good time."
The celebration extended from Dallas to Philadelphia to Georgia.
"I was literally speechless," said Al. "I remember jumping up and down. And my girlfriend looked at me like, ‘What are you doing?’ I was just pointing at the TV. I couldn’t get out what I was trying to say. Just kept saying, ‘My brother! My brother! My brother!’ I couldn’t say anything. I was too excited. … Just a crazy moment, a lot of running around, screaming, jumping, a very proud moment for us, especially, for his family. And definitely a proud moment for him.
"Just to see him come so far, all the trying times, and persevere through everything, the injury at the Senior Bowl, the slipping in the draft, all the way to his second year, being second in interceptions in the NFL. … That was just a very surreal thing to think about and realize. We were all just very proud of him."
Only Seattle’s Richard Sherman had more picks than Boykin last year. In terms of combined interceptions and passes defensed, Boykin ranked fifth with 23, behind only Sherman, Cleveland’s Joe Haden, Baltimore’s Lardarius Webb and then-Titans CB Alterraun Verner.
"His ball skills are what make him so good," said Barwin. "Some guys can get their hands on balls, but he has the ability to get his hands on the ball and hold onto it. I think that’s definitely what you guys all see, and that’s what I see too."
Added DeMeco Ryans: "You have to be a very special guy to come in on third down and you know that most teams, they’re targeting that slot receiver. So for a guy like Boykin to come in and make the amount of plays that he makes from a nickel position, you know he’s a very special player. It’s great to see him progress from his rookie year to now. He’s a proven guy. You’re not worried about him when he’s out on the field. You know he can hold his own against any of the top receivers that line up in front of him. I love playing with Boykin. I love his confidence and just the flexibility he brings us being able to step up when we need him.
"He always has a smile on his face. You never see Boykin down. I’ve never seen him have a bad day. He has a really good spirit about himself."
Five of Boykin’s interceptions last season came with the Eagles clinging to a one-possession lead; four came in the fourth quarter; and two sealed victories.