Josh Boyce and Stansly Maponga took much different paths to TCU. Boyce was 8 years old, playing PeeWee football in Copperas Cove when he first told his family he’d play in the NFL one day.
Maponga was in seventh grade before he played his first game after coming to America from Africa at age 9.
Each took different roads, but Boyce and Maponga, cornerstones of Horned Frogs football the last three seasons, are headed to the NFL under strikingly similar circumstances.
Boyce, a wide receiver, was taken in the fourth round by the Patriots. Maponga, a defensive end, was taken by the Falcons in the fifth round. Both likely had their draft stock diminished because of similar foot injuries. Boyce hurt his a couple months ago; Maponga missed two games last fall with his injury. They both also left TCU a year early, which may have made some teams skittish. Both met with the media at TCU on Tuesday and said the process was nerve-wracking.
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Maponga decided to watch the final day of the draft alone at a hotel. Friends and family and the agonizing wait for his name to be called through the first two days of the draft were too much to bare. Boyce didn’t have to wait quite as long, but he admitted that it was getting to him and his family while they watched together at home in Copperas Cove.
“I think I was nervous just watching it, not knowing where you’re going to go,” he said. “My family was, too, but when the call came they were all happy.”
Did he last too long?
“No, they picked me where I was,” Boyce said. “I’ve got a lot to prove. You always think you could be picked higher, but I don’t really care. I’m just glad I’m on the team. I can improve on every part of my game.”
Maponga, who had scouts drooling after a 2011 season in which he was one of four players nationally to rank in the top 10 in forced fumbles (five) and top 20 in sacks (nine). He led TCU with 13.5 tackles for loss. Last fall he was slowed by the foot injury but still tallied 6.5 tackles for loss, including four sacks.
“I was nervous,” Maponga said. “You never know. There’s a lot of ups and downs going through this process. You have to keep your faith and your mind right and know what you have to do.”
Both have excelled by playing the game with something to prove since arriving as part of the Horned Frogs’ 2009 signing class of 20, which also included Casey Pachall, Waymon James, Matthew Tucker, Tanner Brock and Kenny Cain.
“The chip is going to be on my back forever and I’ll keep working hard to prove people wrong,” Maponga said. “No offense or disrespect to anybody, but I felt like I was the best defensive end in the draft. I don’t want to keep saying that, I want to just let my game speak for itself. In order for me to do that, I need to keep working hard.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson cultivates playing with a chip on your shoulder and working hard. Over the last four years, there have been fewer players who have worked harder than Boyce and Maponga.
Boyce said he thought “the hard work finally paid off” when the Patriots called. “I still have a long way to go, but I’m glad I got to this point.”