Josh Boyce was taken in the fourth round by the Patriots. (AP)
FOXBORO — On a high school team that included future Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, it would have been easy to overlook someone like Josh Boyce. But Jack Welch, who coached both of them at Copperas Cove High School in Texas, said that it was easy to identify someone like Boyce as a potential star at an early age.
“Josh was strong when he was in junior high,” Welch said Saturday shortly after the Patriots took him in the fourth round.
“It’s hard to put into words. I coached RG3 and Charles Tillman as high schoolers. And I can tell you that Josh Boyce is a phenom. He’s a freak. An athletic freak. But when you put that personality in that body, along with that great attitude, you have a winner. He’s never missed a workout, as far as I know. Never.”
Welch said the 5-foot-11, 203-pound Boyce was ticketed for success at an early age because of a great work ethic and boundless physical skill. That physical prowess was on display this past February at the combine — despite the fact he was dealing with the fallout from a right foot injury, he was the only receiver to rank in the top four in the 40 (4.38) and bench press (22 reps). In addition, he finished in the top four among receivers in five out of the seven main categories (40, bench press, broad jump, 3-cone drill, and 60-yard shuffle).
“You never know if a kid is going to make it in the NFL, because there are so many good young players who don’t. It’s like a needle in a haystack. Going in, you have to have that ability and physical skill just to have a chance,” Welch said. “With Jeff, it was clear he had that ability as part of his athletic talent. You know he’s strong — he can bench press the world, but you don’t get strong overnight. You have to work at it, and he does.
“I’ve seen a lot of kids with great talent, but I’ve seen very few that had the talent, plus the attitude and personality of a servant — someone who is a hardworking leader that shows something special. That’s Josh.”
Welch isn’t the only one who believes that Boyce his special. In a 2011 interview, Griffin weighed in on his former high school teammate, saying: “I knew Josh was going to do big things. I believed in him.”
“You can’t measure leadership and character at the combine,” Welch said. “You’re looking at height and weight and jumping ability, but you can’t measure character and attitude and leadership, and he has those traits. The people of New England are getting a quality football player and a quality person.”
Boyce had slightly up-and-down numbers over the course of his college career — while his catches went up between 2011 and 2012 (61 to 66), his yardage (998 to 891) and touchdown totals dipped (nine TDs to seven). While Boyce was fortunate enough to play alongside future NFL QBs Griffin and Andy Dalton (while at TCU).
Welch believes Boyce was hurt by some inconsistent quarterbacking play his last year in college, and instead of building on the 2011 numbers, he took a bit of a step back. If the quarterbacking play were there, Boyce would have been a first-round talent.
“He would have been a first-round pick,” Welch said of Boyce. “As a result, New England got itself a steal.”
Regardless of the occasional dip in numbers or the explosive combine performance, Patriots coach Bill Belichick believes that Boyce showed enough consistency throughout his collegiate career to warrant a shot at becoming part of the New England passing game.
“Josh has been a productive player,” Belichick said shortly after the pick was made. “I think our grades were consistently, on all the scouts that saw him, pretty consistent. So I don’t think we saw him a lot differently from one scout to another, from one year to another or from one part of a year to another or at the combine or at the training camp or during the season or all those things. He’s been pretty consistent all the way through, more so than other guys we could use as examples. He had a strong combine but he’s been a good player in a good conference. He’s been productive. I think he does a lot of things well.”