BYU's top wide receiver was once told by a coach that he would never cut it as a Cougar.
It has also been said of Andy Boyce that he's too slow, too nice, and doesn't look like a football player.Obviously, the coach was wrong. And most of the other stuff isn't right, either, except that Boyce doesn't look like a football player. Oh sure, from the neck down he looks like a receiver, packing 180 pounds on a 6-foot frame. But the face belongs to the kid who bags your groceries at the supermarket.
Casting Boyce as a destroyer of defensive secondaries is like casting Donny Osmond as a chainsaw murderer.
It doesn't bother Boyce, however, that he doesn't fit the part. He even seems to get a kick out of it.
"There's no question I've surprised a lot of people," he says, smiling. "I'm sure a lot of people are wondering, 'Where did Andy Boyce come from? How does he do it?"'
Where Boyce came from is Murray, where he lettered three times in basketball, three times in track and only twice in football at Olympus High. He placed fifth in the high jump at the state track meet, and he also ran the 100- and 200-meters, but it was his all-state football team selection as a senior that got him a scholarship offer to BYU.
He played with the Cougar junior varsity as a freshman during BYU's 1984 national-championship season, then went on an LDS mission to the West Indies. He redshirted in 1987 and felt ready to make the varsity as a sophomore in '88. But at spring practice, receivers coach Norm Chow told Boyce his chances didn't look good.
"He told me that I would never play," Boyce recalls. "That was the toughest time. I talked to some of the defensive backs that spring and they said I was probably the second-toughest receiver to cover, behind Chuck (Cutler). That was a difficult year because I thought I should play, and as it ended up I didn't even see the field."
Actually, Boyce saw a field, but it was the junior-varsity field. In his second season with the jayvees, a rarity for a player expected to eventually make the varsity, he led the team with 323 yards on 17 receptions. By the next spring he had moved into the No. 2 spot on the varsity depth chart, and four games into the '89 season he was made a starter. All he did was lead all wide receivers in catches and yards (712).
"The coaches were surprised, especially Coach Chow," Boyce says. "But he's told me a lot of times that he's proud of me for how I stayed in there and worked my way up.
"I don't think I surprised myself that much, though. I knew I'd be able to do well."
Which brings us to how he does it. While Boyce acknowledges that he's no speed demon, he says he's faster than most people think. "I'm a high 4.4, 4.5 flat-forty guy, and I think that's pretty fast," he says. "If I'm so slow, how do I get open as much as I do?"
Then he answered his own question. "I have a knack for how to run, how to get people turned around," he says. "I get them leaning one way, and then I switch directions fast. I stop really fast and get out of my break quickly.
"Plus I catch the ball. I don't think I've dropped a ball since I've been playing, in high school or college. I've had them go off my hands and things, but if it's catchable, I haven't dropped it."
This may sound like boastfulness, but that's not the way Boyce said it. He wasn't issuing Muhammad Ali-type proclamations of greatness, he just quietly stated what to him was obvious, as if he were describing someone else.
And that attitude, of course, is where the "too-nice" knock comes in. It's a knock Boyce disputes.
"Some people say I'm too nice to play, but when you get out on the field, not that I'm dirty, but you have to put on a whole new countenance," Boyce says. "If a guy starts talking to me, that just pumps me up more."
Not that he'd say much in response, you realize. This is not a player who thrusts a ball in a defender's face after a big catch, or who engages in outlandish end-zone celebrations after scoring a touchdown. His typical TD observance involves thrusting the ball in the air once, after which he drops it. He doesn't spin it like a top, or slam it to the turf, or kneel in prayer. He just drops the ball. Sometimes, in a wild burst of revelry, he rolls the ball. Anything more, he says, wouldn't be Andy Boyce.
"That's just not my nature," he explains. "When I see that on TV I always think what a jerk that guy is. Well, not necessarily a jerk, but just, that's just not my nature."
Boyce also argues that while he has killer instinct, he doesn't see any harm in allowing a dead opponent to be temporarily revived.
"I know how to stomp people out, but when we get too far ahead I start feeling sorry for the other guy," Boyce says. "As long as they aren't going to beat us, I'm not into blowing them out by 60 points. Once you've killed them, like last year against Utah, I have nothing against them scoring three touchdowns in the last quarter."
If Boyce isn't a killer, you wouldn't know it from the numbers. Last week against New Mexico he victimized the Lobo cornerbacks for 235 yards on nine catches. He is second in the nation in receiving yards per game, at 107.5, and seventh in catches, at 6.4.
They're the kind of numbers that would ordinarily have pro scouts drooling, but there has apparently been little interest in Boyce. You see, he's too slow, too nice, too . . . Wait a minute. We've heard this one before - just before the last time Andy Boyce surprised a lot of people.