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Pitt receiver Boyd has pushed himself to solid freshman season

| Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, 10:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd dives into the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown against New Mexico on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at Heinz Field.

Occasionally, Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd, not unlike many college students, will wake up in the morning and feel like pulling the covers over his head and going back to sleep.

But he no longer is in high school. He has responsibilities to himself and his team that continue to grow even into the waning days of his freshman season. Ignoring them is not an option.

“I have to keep practicing, even though I don't want to,” he said. “I have to keep practicing, even though I'm hurt, tired, my legs are killing me.

“It's my job. I'm not here just to be here on a full (scholarship). I didn't get enough sleep some days, but you just have to wake up and continue to grind.

“We're young men now. We have to do what we have to do.”

The roster says Boyd is a freshman, but that designation belies his importance to the team. With one game left in the season — the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Thursday against Bowling Green — Boyd and quarterback Tom Savage are Pitt's biggest playmakers on offense.

If Pitt wins, it likely will be because Savage and Boyd established a connection on the fast turf at Ford Field.

The possible return of senior receiver Devin Street from elbow and foot injuries would ease some of the burden on Boyd, who nonetheless reminds you that playing games after the regular season is nothing new to him.

At Clairton, he played in four consecutive PIAA championships (seven extra games per season), a fact he mentions with no small amount of pride.

“Since my freshman year (at Clairton), I have been playing all the way through to December,” he said.

Boyd was named second-team All-ACC this season, one of only three freshmen so honored (Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller and North Carolina returner Ryan Switzer are the others).

Although Boyd plays with plenty of confidence, he said his early success surprised him.

“I wasn't expecting any of these accolades,” he said. “I just wanted to come here and fit in here and make plays for the team.”

Boyd credits wide receivers coach Bobby Engram for helping him stay grounded.

“He told me, ‘Don't try to make a huge play. Don't try to be the No. 1 playmaker. Just go out there and play your game, and it will come to you,' ” Boyd said. “I listen to him every day.”

The results are impressive.

Boyd led Pitt with 77 receptions — 26 more than Street, the most by any FBS freshman this season and a school record for a freshman. His 1,001 receiving yards are second-most for a freshman in Pitt history to Larry Fitzgerald (1,005 in 2002). Boyd also is the first Pitt pass catcher to surpass 1,000 yards since eventual NFL first-round draft choice Jon Baldwin totaled 1,111 in 2009.

“I'm happy I showed the whole country what I'm capable of,” he said.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola@Trib.

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