Six games into his senior season at Western Oregon, tight end Kevin Boss' collegiate career came to an end in late October of 2006 due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. And it through some serious doubt into his hopes of being drafted by an NFL team.
While he wasn't able to perform the bench press at the NFL Scouting Combine, he impressed scouts with his speed, size and pass-catching ability. And after another strong performance at his Pro Day, he was selected in the fifth-round by New York Giants in the 2007 NFL Draft.
This weekend, the rookie will line up for his third NFL start and his first NFL playoff appearance. After Jeremy Shockey broke his leg during a mid-December contest against the Redskins, the team turned to Boss to step in to fill the void with the team in the hunt for a playoff spot. The 6-foot-6, 253-pound tight end has responded with two touchdowns catches over the last three games. And he caught four passes during Week 17 action against the New England Patriots.
Scout.com's Ed Thompson talked to the humble and hard-working rookie about his first year in the NFL as Boss and the Giants prepared for their playoff game this weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ed Thompson: It's only been a year and two months since you had surgery on your shoulder during your senior year at Western Oregon. You then started your rehab in hopes of being at full strength for your predraft workouts and the NFL Scouting Combine. Now you're days away from starting as a rookie in an NFL playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Does that all of that seem like a lifetime ago to you with all you've been through since your surgery?
Kevin Boss: Yeah, it really does. It's funny, because over the holidays my parents came out here to visit and we were reminiscing about where I was this time about a year ago and how I've come so far since then. It's been a long journey, but I'm excited for where it's taken me. It has been an awful lot of hard work, but I'm definitely reaping the benefits now.
Thompson: On December 17th versus the Redskins you caught your first NFL touchdown. Talk about the play and what went through your mind after you caught that ball.
Boss: It was a play that had been working for us in practice all week, and as soon as I heard it called in the huddle I was excited because I knew I had a pretty good shot at being open. There was a little play-action and the linebacker stepped up just enough for me to get in behind him and Eli (Manning) threw me a good ball and I was able to get into the end zone. It wasn't as sweet as it could have been, with us not winning the game. I would have traded it in for a victory, but it was fun for me because my girlfriend and my brother were there. I was actually able to point to them because they were sitting there in that end zone, so it was a real exciting time for me.
Thompson: You have nine receptions so far this season, with four of them coming in the last game against the Patriots. But I noticed eight of your nine catches have been for first downs.
Boss: I didn't even know that. But I'm glad to do anything I can to help the team out. I've been lucky enough to be put in the right situation where I can help my team convert a first down. I've been in the right spot at the right time, I guess.
Thompson: You had a nice 23-yard grab against New England along the sidelines, your longest catch of the year so far. How'd you get open on that play?
Boss: The play kind of broke down. I had to run a post down the middle and I was running it down the field and I looked back and saw that Eli was in trouble and running toward the sidelines. So, just like they teach us, you move with the ball and I ran towards the sidelines where he could see me and stuck my hand out. He threw me a good ball and I was able to get my feet in before I went out of bounds.
Kevin Boss is congratulated by teammates after catching a touchdown pass against the Patriots during Week 17 action.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Thompson: Four catches against New England for 50 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown just seconds before the half. Walk us through the touchdown play.
Boss: It was a similar situation. I had to break my route off again on that one. Eli was getting some pressure, so he stepped up. I noticed that he was stepping up and (Patriots safety) Rodney Harrison ran in front of me to try to get in the passing lane. So I stepped to the side of him and found a little hole, and Eli put it right there for me. It was a nice play where we were kind of on the same page and we made it work.
Thompson: What's it been like working with Eli? And how have the two of you been working together to get ready for Tampa Bay this week?
Boss: I feel that Eli and I are on the same page. He's pretty confident in me in being able to get open for him and then catching the ball when I'm open. This week shouldn't be any different. It will be nice that it's a warm-weather game. Hopefully we'll be able to throw the ball some and at the same time be able to establish a running game to help the passing game. I'm excited to go in there this week with the confidence I built last week.
Thompson: Who are some of the players you've been studying on the Bucs defense who really jumped out at you?
Boss: First of all, you have to watch Gaines Adams. He's a fellow rookie and a real impressive athlete at defensive end, so I won't be surprised if I spend a fair amount of time blocking him. Kevin Carter, on the other side, is a real physical defensive end. And they have a tremendous linebacking group with Derrick Brooks and also Cato June. They obviously have a great defense with some tremendous players in the secondary as well with Ronde Barber. It'll be a good challenge for us and I'm looking forward to it.
Thompson: What's the mood of the team been like this week? Are you guys staying loose or is it more serious atmosphere?
Boss: I'd say it's a little bit of a balance. Last week, although we didn't pull out the win, it gave us confidence to play with a championship-caliber team like the Patriots. I think everyone's excited to play again, to continue that confidence and hopefully make a run in the playoffs.
Thompson: After Jeremy Shockey was injured, both Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress stated that you were going to need to grow up fast. I know you're already a very mature as a person, but they obviously had some understanding of how hard it is for a rookie to be thrust into a starters' role like you've been. How did you handle the news that you were going to need to step in to help this team as a starter so early in your NFL career — and at a time when they were trying to qualify for a playoff spot?
Boss: It was definitely an unfortunate circumstance to be put into with one of our best offensive players going down like that. But I continue to prepare like I have all year because all year I've just been one snap away from being put in that situation. I just continue to do everything I've been doing throughout the year. I continue to watch film everyday after practice, but I did have to tone down my lifting program a little bit because I knew I'd be seeing a few more snaps and didn't want to be out there with heavy legs. I was excited for the opportunity, but at the same time felt real bad for Jeremy that his season had to end like that.
Thompson: I noticed you didn't break into any sort of touchdown dance after scoring against New England.
Boss: (Laughing) Yeah, I don't think you'll ever see me dance. I always looked up to (Lions running back) Barry Sanders and how he handled himself on the field. I thought was pretty neat how whenever he'd score a touchdown he'd just toss the ball to the official and run over to the sidelines. I've always admired that about him.
Thompson: Tell us a little bit about what your schedule's been like for this week as you prepared for the playoffs.
Boss: It's just kind of been a normal week. We have a lighter practice tomorrow, and on Saturday we have a walkthrough in the morning before boarding the plane and heading down to Tampa. We have a one o'clock game, so it's kind of an early morning on Sunday. But we'll just get ready for that game and I'm definitely excited to go play in the warm sun. It's been pretty cold here in New York over the past couple of days.
Thompson: Is there anything you'd like to pass on to the Giants fans that will be reading this feature?
Boss: I really appreciate the support I've gotten from them, and I look forward to going down to Tampa Bay and doing my best to help this team get a victory.