Pitt star wide receiver Boyd will declare for NFL Draft
For an All About Me school project poster, a 9-year-old Tyler Boyd drew a picture of himself playing in the NFL.
It was a big dream for a kid from Clairton, the tiny steel town that Boyd would put on the map.
With record-setting high school and college football careers at Clairton and Pitt, Boyd became a hometown star. On New Year's Day, he thanked Pittsburgh with a heartfelt letter that traced his trajectory from boy playing for the Little Bears to native son starring for the Panthers.
The most prolific receiver in Pitt history, Boyd announced Friday he will forgo his final season of eligibility for early entry into the NFL Draft. He met Thursday morning with Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi to review his NFL evaluation, where he was projected as a second-round pick. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior from Clairton, a two-time first-team All-ACC selection, announced his intentions Friday afternoon in an e-mail to the Tribune-Review.
“I will be declaring for the 2016 NFL Draft,” Boyd wrote. “But as I step out and begin my professional journey. I will always savor the moments we had All the support you gave me. And for making me a man. I will carry you with me. I will continue to make you proud (and) I promise to never forget where I came from. As we both know, no matter what, I will always be the kid from Clairton that dreamed of catching that winning touchdown. Thank you for raising me Pittsburgh.”
Boyd's mother, Tonya Payne, said her son carefully weighed his options after his meeting with Narduzzi, who she described as “supportive either way.” One of the considerations for Boyd to turn pro, Payne said, is to provide for his 2-year-old daughter, Taylen.
“We reviewed the pros and cons, what's really left for him other than getting a diploma, a degree,” Payne said. “For him, he has to look at it different: He has a daughter he has to take care of. Part of that is weighing on him.”
Narduzzi said in a statement released by Pitt officials Friday night that he spoke to the NFL about Boyd before their meeting Thursday.
“As head coach at Pitt, it is my responsibility to make sure each of our players make an informed decision on early draft entry,” Narduzzi said. “To that end, I had four detailed phone conversations with NFL general managers and shared that feedback with Tyler so he could have the best information at his disposal.
“Although I only coached him for a year, I will forever be a fan and supporter of Tyler and his family. I wish him the very best at the next level and know he will make an NFL team very happy. Tyler loves Pitt and Pittsburgh, and we love Tyler. We will all look forward to watching him play and succeed at the next level.”
With six receptions for 53 yards and five rushes for 55 yards in Pitt's 44-28 loss to Navy on Monday in the Military Bowl, Boyd finished his career with 254 receptions for 3,361 yards, breaking Pitt's career records for receptions, set by Devin Street in 2013, and receiving yards, set by Antonio Bryant in 2001.
Boyd had 91 receptions for 926 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games this season, one shy of Larry Fitzgerald's single-season school record for catches set in 2003. He became the first player in ACC history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons as a freshman and sophomore.
The loss of Boyd leaves a void in the Pitt passing game, but Narduzzi has prepared for Boyd's departure by adding three wide receivers to the Class of 2016, including four-star prospect Ruben Flowers of Lima, Ohio, three-star Maurice Ffrench of New Brunswick, N.J., and junior-college transfer Juwann Winfree, who started his career at Maryland.
ESPN scout Todd McShay has projected Boyd as “a solid Day 2 pick,” indicating he would be drafted in the second round. McShay complimented Boyd's “very good” ball skills and body control, but added that his “lack of elite speed will probably keep him out of the first round.”
Boyd is one of the most decorated players in WPIAL history. He set a career record for touchdowns (117) while finishing fifth among career rushers with 5,755 yards. Clairton was 48-0 in his three years as a starter and drew national acclaim for its 63-game win streak during Boyd's tenure, which included four WPIAL and four PIAA Class A championships. He was the 2012 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Player of the Year and became the first Class A player in WPIAL history to play in the U.S. Army All-American Game.
“The thing that I told him when he was teetering with this — it was like dealing with the recruiting process all over again, but on a different level — is that, of course, the school would love for him to stay and I would love for him to graduate first, but that he has to make the final decision,” Payne said. “One thing I always admired about him was his determination factor. He proved himself. This isn't going to be any different. I told him, whether you go first round or second round, you're that little boy from Clairton who has a chance to chase his dream.”