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Clairton's Boyd named Daily News athlete of the year

| Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. I For the Daily News
Clairton's Tyler Boyd dribbles against Cochranton during the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs on March 8, 2013, at Plum.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Clairton's Tyler Boyd carries against Dunmore's Mike Kolcharno during the second quarter of the PIAA Class A state championship game Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 in Hershey.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania coach Art Walker, Jr. hugs receiver Tyler Boyd of Clairton after he scored his third touchdown against Maryland during the Big 33 Football Classic on Saturday, June 15, 2013, at Hersheypark Stadium.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Clairton's Tyler Boyd goes for a layup over Smethport's Zach Smith during a PIAA Class A second-round game on March 12, 2013 at Clarion.

Tyler Boyd heard the criticism mixed in with the compliments throughout his career at Clairton.

He had mind-boggling ability. He may be the greatest athletic specimen in WPIAL history.

But ... there was always that unneeded caveat. The one that almost became a sing-song melody by the end of his four years with the Bears.

Yes, he's a tremendous talent in football and basketball. He did set the WPIAL record with 117 career touchdowns and was one of the most skilled athletes on a football team that won a state record 63 consecutive games. But because he plays in Class A — the area's lowest classification — his numbers were perceived by some as overblown because he couldn't do what he did week in and week out against the best teams in the higher classifications.

People in Clairton are flat-out tired of hearing it. And Boyd, the 2013 Daily News Boys' Athlete of the Year, showed not just those in the WPIAL and the state, but the entire country just what he is capable of when he scored four touchdowns and passed for another for Pennsylvania in the Big 33 Football Classic, which was televised June 15 on the NFL Network.

“What he did against Maryland in the Big 33 is what we came to expect from him because he's that type of player,” Clairton football coach Tom Nola said. “He had good moves and his instincts and vision were unbelievable because he could be at a dead stop and he would jump-stop and make a guy miss. He's just special, and he's the best player to ever play at Clairton.”

What he did on the gridiron was enough to place him among the best athletes to ever play in the region. His 5,755 career rushing yards are fifth in WPIAL history and include a stunning 4,984 yards and 99 total touchdowns in his final two seasons, which earned him 2011 and 2012 Class A Player of the Year honors from the Pennsylvania Sportswriters.

During his football career, he helped Clairton win four consecutive WPIAL Class A titles and become the first WPIAL team to win four PIAA championships. He finished his scholastic career with the Bears at Hersheypark Stadium — which also was the venue for the Big 33 game — when he rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown and also intercepted a pass in a 20-0 win over Dunmore in the 2012 PIAA Class A final.

Boyd, though, took it one step further. Immediately after a trip to San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he joined the Bears on the basketball court and, thanks to an upset of Lincoln Park in the semifinals, helped Clairton to its first WPIAL Class A final at A.J. Palumbo Center since 2006.

“He was such a gifted athlete, but he would always accept the coaching. He was willing to learn and did everything that we asked of him, and he was a pleasure to coach,” Clairton basketball coach Matt Geletko said. “I always said that if he was 100-percent committed to basketball, that I could see him playing at the Division I level. He was just so competitive and did whatever it took for us to win and to make the team better.”

What made his performance on the court that much more impactful was that he did it with the swirl of college football recruiting inundating itself into every facet of his life. Boyd had committed to Pitt on national television at the U.S. Army Bowl on Jan. 5, but wrestled with his decision for more than a month and even took several official recruiting visits, including one to Tennessee, before putting ink to paper and sticking with the Panthers along with Clairton teammates Titus Howard and Terrish Webb.

“Before everything was said and done on Signing Day, you could see that he had a lot going on,” Geletko said. “Once that burden was finally lifted, he was 100 percent committed to basketball and you could tell he was just much more relaxed. And that was right at the end of the regular season, which helped us to make that big run in the playoffs and he was a big part of it.”

Still, there is one question that remains for Boyd; the same one that plagues every talented high school player who signs to play at an FBS school — How will his prep success translate to the collegiate level?

“He has the skill and the work ethic, but he just has to mentally get used to, in college, not being the focal point,” Nola said. “Athletically, he has all the tools, but he just has to get used to not being quite as involved in the game as he was in high school and accepting his role.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kbarnes@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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