Boyd Went From Next Troy To Tiger Royalty

As Ohio State gets ready to face Clemson in Friday's Orange Bowl, it prepares to take on a star quarterback who could have been wearing scarlet and gray during his college career. But instead of following in the footsteps of his idol, Tajh Boyd traced his own path at Clemson, which he has led back to national prominence.

Tajh Boyd's Ohio State career came to a halt on a bus in San Antonio, Texas.

The heralded quarterback hailing from Hampton, Va., was winding down a recruitment that took pit stops at West Virginia and Tennessee before settling on a decision between the trio of Oregon, Ohio State and Clemson.

He accepted a scholarship to play for the Mountaineers but concerns about the offense led him to switch his pledge to Tennessee to play for Phillip Fulmer. Once Fulmer was ousted in favor of Lane Kiffin, the new coach made clear to Boyd that he wasn't welcome with the new regime, leading him to his final choice.

Had he joined many of his peers by committing to the college of his choice at the US Army All-American Bowl, Boyd likely would be putting the finishing touches on a career spent wearing scarlet and gray and playing in Ohio Stadium.

At the time, he was leaning toward committing to Ohio State. Although he said he never officially pledged his support to the Buckeyes, there was at one point a tacit agreement between him and the OSU coaching staff that he would be headed to Columbus. Had he committed at the All-American Bowl, the choice would have been different than where he ultimately ended up.

"If I would have committed at the Army All-American game during my recruiting process, I would have been a Buckeye right now," Boyd said Monday. "But getting the chance to go down there and meet Roderick McDowell and meet Malliciah Goodman, those guys like that, really kind of helped change the course of it. Definitely feel like this is the best spot for me. I couldn't have picked a better school."

That was only possible thanks to the lobbying of McDowell, who took it upon himself to recruit Boyd to Clemson. On a bus ride to practice in San Antonio, McDowell placed a call to a Tigers assistant and put him in touch with Boyd.

"We were on the bus going to practice and I was like, ‘Hey Tajh, what do you think about what school you want to go to?' and he said, ‘Man, I just want to play,'" McDowell said. "I got on the phone and called my recruiting coach (then-running backs coach Andre Powell, who now holds the same title at Maryland) and told him I'm standing next to Tajh Boyd. I think he hung up the phone on me. After like a minute, he called me back. They had my phone like, forever. I was like, ‘Can I get my phone back? I've got people I want to talk to,'" he said with a laugh.

Boyd's Buckeye Connections
As a high school player, there was one quarterback that Boyd idolized more than any other – OSU Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel used that knowledge to his advantage to take the lead in his recruitment.

"That was one of more difficult kind of things, to turn down Ohio State," Boyd said. "Troy Smith was my favorite quarterback by far. He wasn't a big guy, but just the way he played the game, with heart. What he brought to the table – his leadership, his energy. I think he was on the scout team for like three years. That's the reason I wear his number.

"I remember sitting down with Coach Tressel, and he was like, ‘You know, you can wear No. 10 if you come here,' and I was like, ‘Oh my God.' It was just a lot for me to take in at the moment. It was something that I'll never forget. He's a player that I'll never forget, and I think that's what makes the game (against Ohio State) that much sweeter."

Although he didn't end up as a Buckeye, Boyd said he still keeps track of OSU's results throughout the season. He also expressed a fondness for some of the more aesthetic benefits of the football program.

"They have some of the dopest uniforms in the country," he said.

They also have one of the best quarterbacks in the country, a fact that wasn't lost on Boyd when he took an official visit to Columbus. Even then, he said he heard plenty of talk about how Braxton Miller was "next in line" behind then-first-year QB Terrelle Pryor and even remembered the high school from which Miller hailed.

"I heard about Braxton (Miller) a lot during my visit," he said. "It was like, ‘Well, there's this guy who goes to Wayne High School, and he's going to be really good.' He's turned out to be a terrific quarterback. It's kind of weird to see how it's all shaped up."

He said that the Miller talk didn't ultimately affect his decision to spurn Ohio State for Clemson, and the two signal callers still keep in touch occasionally.

"We have a good relationship," Boyd said. "I talked to him a little bit yesterday. For us, respectively, we're talking about historical programs so I think that it's an honor to be categorized as this quarterback."

Has he ever looked back on Ohio State and wondered what might have been?

"I reminisced for a little bit, but only for a couple of minutes," he said.

The Face of the Program
Now in his fifth year at Clemson, he's blossomed into a star on the field and a person that teammates rave about off the field.

His storied career – one that led Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to label him as "the face of the program" – didn't exactly get off to the best start. When Boyd arrived at Clemson, he struggled so much with catching shotgun snaps that the Tigers coaching staff sent him to an eye doctor thinking that perhaps his vision needed to be corrected.

"Really, our first spring there, we're installing our offense, and he really struggled catching the snap, just something that we take for granted, a shotgun snap, to the point where it really alarmed me that I actually contacted our training staff and sent him to the eye doctor because I thought he needed glasses," Morris said. "So he came back, and he had 20/20, and I said, ‘Well, something's wrong here now, Tajh. We've got to figure this out.'"

In the locker room, Boyd has been a stabilizing presence for a team that has experienced its shares of ups and downs this season. Despite a pair of crushing losses to Florida State and rival South Carolina, Boyd did his part to keep the locker room intact.

"Throughout the whole season, the highs and lows, he's always been the same Tajh," offensive lineman Tyler Shatley said. "He's not pointing fingers and he takes the blame when he needs to, even when it's not his fault. He puts it on his shoulders and tries his best."

That extends off the field, as well. Boyd's laid-back nature puts people at ease. Teammates talk of his dedication to speaking to anyone who approaches him and his willingness to sign autographs until every fan receives a signature.

"He's just a great guy off the field," Shatley said. "I've never seen a guy with so many friends. We can walk around campus and everybody knows him. Everybody would know him because he's the starting quarterback, but he knows everybody's name and is just a real friendly guy, good guy to be around."

When asked about the teammate he's responsible for protecting, Clemson offensive tackle Brandon Thomas was succinct.

"If you could show me a better leader, that would be impressive," Thomas said.

That doesn't mean Boyd isn't without flaws. For starters, he listens to – and even enjoys – country music, to the point that it showed up in his course load at Clemson.

"Some of the classes I took were pretty interesting," he said. "I took Country Western Dance, which was like a line-dancing class. I've got a couple moves. History of Country Music – I'm a big country music fan."

While Boyd may be fond of his dancing, his teammates tend to agree that his moves need some work.

"For one, Tajh can't dance," McDowell said. "No rhythm at all."

His flaws, harmless as can be, only serve to reflect his fun-loving and caring personality. When reminiscing over his career, he spoke about his inability to answer the hundreds of text messages that flow into his phone.

"I'm a bad texter," he said, pulling out his iPhone. "Let's see how many messages I have unread – 249. I try to communicate as best as I can now… they need to know that I still love them."

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