The decision to leave TCU early didn’t come easily for Josh Boyce.
The receiver, who is expected to go anywhere from the fourth to sixth round in the NFL draft, which begins Thursday, didn’t come to terms with his departure until mid-January.
Boyce earned his sociology degree in December and that, more than anything, weighed heavily on his decision.
“I came to college to get that and I knew if I ran well at the [NFL] combine I had a pretty good shot to go pretty high,” Boyce said. “It was tough because I know what’s coming back. [TCU] is going to be really good this coming year. But coach [Gary Patterson] was behind me and told me I needed to make the best decision for myself.”
Boyce’s parents felt the same way. He performed well at the combine in late February, ranking eighth among receivers in overall performance, just behind possible first-round picks Tavon Austin of West Virginia and Marquise Goodwin of Texas, among others.
“I was pretty pleased with my performance,” Boyce said. But soon after returning to Los Angeles to resume training he heard a pop in his foot while running a simple out route.
“I thought it was a regular old ankle twist or something like that,” he said. “So I didn’t think anything much about it. But later on in the day it started hurting even more.”
A doctor determined that Boyce had broken his foot, likely originating with a small crack sustained at the combine. For someone such as Boyce, who never missed a game in his three seasons at TCU, it was a case of bad luck, but good timing. He is close to being able to jog again after working out in a pool for a month. But he’s missed out on private workouts for teams, although he has talked to all 32 organizations, he said.
“I’m not glad it happened, but I’m glad it happened at that time,” he said.
Some teams might have reservations because of the injury. But Boyce, who put his stamp on the TCU record book during three seasons, and who would likely set new standards in every conceivable receiving category had he returned, isn’t fretting over where or when he might go in the draft. He’s learned from former teammates, including Andy Dalton and Jeremy Kerley, that patience is the key during the draft.
“They told me you never know when your name is going to be called. When they call your name, just be ready to go to work,” Boyce said. “I don’t have any preference. It’s whoever wants me.”
Of course, much of the pre-draft scouting ink and web space is filled with subjective analysis cloaked as objective, which, depending on who you’re reading, is often dubious. Take this from NFL.com on Boyce’s weaknesses from his prospect page.
“Might be limited to purely playing the slot. Does not bring some difficult catches extended away from his frame that top prospects are expected to snare with their hands. Some college corners could close on him in the open field. Will fall off run blocks instead of sustaining, allowing his man to come off and make a play at times.”
Some of that might be accurate, but most TCU fans won’t recall a whole lot of passes Boyce failed to snare with his hands. To the contrary, he often made adjustments on passes that weren’t exactly on target.
Boyce was expecting to have another exceptional season in 2012, his second with quarterback Casey Pachall, with whom he enrolled early in January 2009. Before the season even began, Boyce said he was fully expecting to declare for the draft. But then Pachall left the team after four games and TCU’s offense was forced to cater more to replacement Trevone Boykin’s skills. Without Pachall, Boyce finished with fewer yards (891) and touchdown catches (7) than he had in 2011. Although he did set a TCU record with 66 receptions in 2012, there were fewer home run attempts and more short-yardage completions.
“I was thinking if I had a really great season I was going to come out. And then all the stuff happened,” he said. “At the bowl game, I still didn’t know.”
But two weeks later, after Pachall returned to the team, Boyce, despite enjoying the prospect of playing with Pachall again, decided he was ready.