ACC Legend: Stephen Boyd of Boston College
Oct. 28, 2011
Boston College linebacker Stephen Boyd never played in the ACC, which is not to say he lacked impact on the conference's football tradition.
"Remember Kez McCorvey, the receiver from Florida State?" Boyd said by phone from Long Island. "We played on the Lions in my last two years in the NFL. He used to thank me...every day."
The gratitude stemmed from Nov. 20, 1993, when Boyd swatted a Notre Dame field-goal attempt in a game his Boston College Eagles eventually won on their own game-ending kick. That result knocked the Fighting Irish from No. 1 in the land and ultimately facilitated FSU's ascension to the national championship.
The moment is Boyd's contribution to ACC history. And while it seems somewhat vicarious, it hinted at the attributes that would make BC a member of the league a dozen years later. It also helps explain why ACC Legends come from all current institutions.
Boyd came to BC from Valley Stream, N.Y., and was quickly indoctrinated into a culture of accountability under coach Tom Coughlin, who took over after Boyd's redshirt freshman season. Early-morning runs in the chill of winter and other rigorous workouts heralded the new regime's arrival and instilled the importance of details.
"That helped us get so much more mentally tough," Boyd said. "We worked hard and learned how to work. Not that it didn't exist before because it did, but this was a different approach and because we had so many guys of great character and leadership, we were able to start to do some good things."
By 1992, Boyd's redshirt sophomore season, things were coming together. The Eagles went 8-3-1, posting the program's first winning season since 1986. The following fall, they changed the course of the college football season.
On Nov. 13, 1993, the Irish knocked off the visiting Seminoles, then in their second year of ACC membership, to claim No. 1. A presumed win over Boston College in the regular-season finale would put them in position for another national title.
Among themselves, the Eagles spoke of a need to make a momentum-seizing play early in the game to pacify the crowd. After a third-down stop, Boyd remained on the field as the Eagles prepared for the Irish field-goal attempt.
"I'm not the guy who's going to block the field goal," Boyd said. "I'm not the tallest guy and I'm not coming off the edge because I don't run a 4.4 (40-yard dash). But the message was - and this is what the coaches always said - that if you go hard all the time and everybody takes care of his responsibility...
"If I had taken that play off, it would have been a waste."
Boyd swatted the kick, picked up the resulting loose ball and returned it far enough to set up the Eagles' three-pointer. A message was delivered: the visitors weren't going to cooperate with the common storyline.
BC's victory a few hours later was the event that shook things up.
While the values in the Boyd play are not unique to the ACC, they are consistent with an ethos that stresses across-the-board commitment. Years later, the win at Notre Dame remains at the forefront of BC football history along with Doug Flutie's game-ending heave to Gerard Phelan in the Orange Bowl in 1984 and the Matt Ryan-led comeback in the final three minutes at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Boyd made 161 tackles in that 1993 season - still one of the top five totals in BC history - as the Eagles won nine games. The following season, he made 25 stops in one contest.
He graduated with a degree in human development, having espoused a core belief that made BC attractive to the ACC in its expansion efforts. Among all Division I programs in all sports, the university tied for second nationally with Duke with a Graduation Success Rate of 97 percent in the most recent NCAA-compiled figures, continuing a longstanding tradition.
"I remember one of the upperclassmen, Mark Borelli, told me, `You go to every class and if you have trouble, do not hesitate to see the professor at office hours.' And it was so true," Boyd recalled. "Learning's always easier when you communicate back to the teacher and display a sense of urgency and a sense that you care."
These days, he is on the other side of the educational relationship, where he is his ninth year and the third as head football coach at Chaminade High School in Mineola, N.Y.
In his playing days, he didn't think about the ACC, but when BC joined the fold, Boyd was thrilled, and he finds ties to the conference through institutions almost daily.
The Flyers often play on Saturdays, thereby cutting into Boyd's Eagle-watching time, but he'll make up for some of it by attending the Legends events and the ACC Championship Game, in which Boston College participated in 2007 and 2008.
"I would have liked to play against some of those teams, yeah," he said. "But it was a great move and they've done really well."