GREENSBORO, N.C. – Tajh Boyd put in a lot of work to get to this point – occupying the center of the ACC football world.
Sunday, he sat down for the first time before hundreds in the media contingent at the ACC Football Kickoff – and there was no question, he was the star of show.
At the round table, reporters armed with cellphones, recorders, pens and notepads were two-to-three deep surrounding the Tigers’ QB. Boyd says it’s all starting to sink in for him, as the leader of the ACC favorites and a sure-to-be Heisman Trophy contender.
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“The more you start to mature and the older you start to get,” Boyd said, “the more important certain things are. I’ve been playing at Clemson now – this is my fifth year and it comes down to five months. For me, it’s about embracing every opportunity – every practice, every workout, every time I step on the field I’m trying to be the best player I can be.
“Once you start to mature, you embrace every opportunity you get. It’s about me going out there and living in the moment and enjoy it.”
His offensive coordinator Chad Morris says he has no doubt Boyd will be able to handle the extra attention involved with being on this stage. Experience – both painful (end of the 2011 season) and jubilant (finishing 2012 with a win over LSU) – are what will guide him.
“His first year as a starter here, we (started) 8-0,” Morris said. “Things are going great. He’s kinda living the high life and feeling it. All of a sudden we lose four of our last six. It was in direct proportion to his play.
“It wasn’t all him, but it was his play. He will be the first to admit he allowed some of that to get to him.”
Against LSU, the lessons learned along the way of being a high-level FBS QB all came to fruition.
“His recognition of coverages and exactly what he did in the LSU game, (Boyd said), ‘Hey, I’m the guy. It’s on me. I got this,’” said Morris. “He’s definitely a guy that you can see even more excel than he has in his first two years.”
The Hampton, Va. native has set 51 Clemson records so far – all but 11 came just last season playing one less game than the year before. And he is in range for many more if he can put the exclamation mark on his career with another big season.
To take his game to that next level, Boyd is leaning on someone who’s already had his share of pro success – fellow Hampton Roads’ product and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mike Vick.
“He asked me, ‘Do you want to be the best?’” Boyd said of conversations he’s had with Vick even up to this weekend. “He’s like if you want to be the best (then) go back to school and do everything you can to do that. I personally want to be the best player and I want us to be the best team possible.
“So why not go out there and give one last shot at it. I don’t want to live with regrets on anything I do. I didn’t want to make that step and regret coming back.”
The pressure to be that Heisman QB – to be an ACC and possible national title contender as Clemson’s leader? That’s not something he’s going to let anyone put on him.
“The pressure that you put on yourself is the worst thing you can do,” Boyd said. “For me, it’s about performance. It’s a performance-based business and a performance-based game. The only pressure that comes is the pressure you put on yourself. It’s all about going out there and playing at your highest level.
“If you’re confident in what you’re doing, you’ll go out and get it done. Don’t worry about everything else that comes with it.”
Boyd “not afraid”: Boyd knew it was coming. The Clowney question was on its way.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said last week at SEC media days that the Tigers’ QB among more quarterbacks he has faced were “scared” of the Gamecocks’ d-line – led by the rising junior behemoth.
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Up to Sunday, Boyd said his best response was no response.
“Honestly, there’s a lot of talking that goes on in college football, on the field and off the field,” he said. “This has been one of the more publicized things. Honestly, it’s not on my radar right now.
“That takes care of itself in November when we go down there to play. Right now, I’m just getting ready for the summer and the season.”
But is he scared of the Gamecocks’ defensive line, Clowney?
“I’m not afraid of anybody,” Boyd said. “That’s never been a part of my nature.”