Some people fall. Some people fall hard. Denver Broncos safety John Boyett fell flat on his face.
The former Oregon star had achieved his dream. Despite having had surgery on both of his knees and missing all but one game in his senior season as a member of the Ducks, he was picked in the sixth round by the Indianapolis Colts, a playoff team that had a need at the safety position.
On the dawn of the NFL’s regular season, Boyett decided to get hammered, be aggressive and ‘abusive’ toward the cops, and then proclaim that they couldn’t arrest him because he played for the Colts.
Not exactly the way you celebrate making an NFL team.
Despite the irony of him being cut from the Colts for his drunken acts, Boyett felt like his actions that night were not a true representation of his character.
“I want to apologize to Mr. (Jim) Irsay, the Indianapolis Colts organization and the Indianapolis police,” Boyett wrote on Twitter. “The Colts gave me an opportunity and I blew it. My behavior didn’t and doesn’t represent who I am. I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed in myself. All I can do now is learn from it and never repeat it. I look forward to showing my true character in the future.”
It would be more than two months later before Boyett would get a second chance at his football dreams. The Denver Broncos, following one of the most bizarre mid-season injuries recorded in the league, signed safety Michael Huff to the active roster and brought in Boyett for the practice squad.
It was a strange condition in the leg of free safety Rahim Moore that led to the roster shuffling at the safety position, and the Broncos may have come away with a real steal, but he’s going to have to work really hard to even make this team’s final roster.
When I evaluated Boyett as a junior, I saw one of the best safeties in college football, and that was despite some athletic limitations. Boyett is a good athlete, don’t get me wrong, but we’re not talking about a Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, size/speed combination here. This is a guy who is a shade under 5’11” and 206 pounds. At his pro day last year, he ran a 4.57 in the 40 yard dash but managed to throw up 27 bench press reps at the 2013 scouting combine.
This is a player who obviously works hard at his craft, and for those who might wonder why John Elway gave this guy a second chance, here are a few reasons:
But this is a rare case where highlights don’t do a prospect justice. Boyett’s sophomore season at Oregon was something else, as he racked up 78 tackles, five interceptions, and nine passes broken up. His junior season he led the team in tackles with 108, and picked off another pass to go along with six pass breakups, 3.5 tackles for loss, and two blocked kicks.
As for a little Oregon-Broncos connection?
As a freshman at Oregon, Boyett was a backup to none other than T.J. Ward, one of the best current safeties in the NFL and at that time, one of the top prospects at his position heading into the 2010 NFL Draft.
Like Boyett, Ward had a history of knee injuries. Like Boyett, Ward missed time in his senior season. The guy to replace Ward at Oregon? A freshman named John Boyett, who came in and in just six starts, wound up leading the team in tackles in 2009 with 90, also picking off three passes.
Now the Broncos have both guys, and they are now competing at different positions instead of playing time at the same one.
Despite an ugly set of circumstances bringing Boyett to Denver, it’s hard not to root for the guy. Two major knee surgeries cut short his senior season and got him placed on the reserve/injury list before he was even able to take the field for the Colts. He’s been working his way back to the football field for a long time, so to see him at Broncos rookie mini-camp, wearing his old college number 20, was a welcome sight to see for me as a football and draft fan.
At last we saw Boyett healthy on the field, he appeared to be at worst a third or fourth round safety, and only going that late because of some athletic limitations. Even after major injuries, the Colts were willing to take a shot on him with a top 200 selection.
Our own scouts at NFLMocks.com compared Boyett to a less athletic, injured version of Troy Polamalu coming out of college, citing his instincts as arguably his greatest asset.
Obviously, instincts weren’t what got him to the Broncos, but it’s what he does with his opportunity now that will define his football career, hopefully not the mistake he made with the Indianapolis Colts.
One year ago at this time, I was talking about Boyett as a dark-horse starter for the Colts at safety in 2014. Now, he’s fighting for a roster spot with the Broncos, and I think he’s got a great chance to get back to the level he once was.