Kyle Boyd: From the Marines to the field

Freshman linebacker and former Marine Kyle Boyd leads his team onto the field on Sept. 10 at McLane Stadium against Southern Methodist University. The Bears won on Military Appreciation Day, 40-13. Photo Credit: Timothy Hong

William Shakespeare once said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” But then there are people like freshman linebacker Kyle Boyd, whose greatness has surpassed the norm, yet he is too humble to realize it.

Boyd grew up hearing stories of his grandfather who served in the Marines and great uncle who received a purple heart after serving in the Army during the Vietnam War. Although Boyd did not know at the moment, years later he would find himself serving alongside brave men and women of the United States.

As a young boy growing up in Mesquite, Boyd spent his days outside playing football. He enjoyed playing with his brother and father, and that love spurred his passion to continue playing as he went into high school.

“I played football since I was 4 years old,” Boyd said. “I played pee-wee and flag football all the way up to middle school. I played in middle school and in high school all four years. I didn’t play any other sport; this was my sport. I just loved everything about it.”

At John Horn High School, his football coach, Rodney Webb, said he noticed something different about Boyd.

“Kyle is one of those really rare kids. They talk the talk, but they also walk the walk. He was a very good leader in both respects, as an example and as a vocal leader. He commanded the respect of all his teammates,” Webb said. “I think Kyle is just a person of high character, and I think you see character in a person, in particular in a football player. You see their character on and off the field. He is just a solid guy. It showed up in the classroom, on the field, in off season and when you were having casual conversation with him.”

Boyd credits Webb for his success, as quotes from high school practice continue to pop up and play as inspirations for Boyd.

“Show me a satisfied man, and I’ll show you a failure. If you are satisfied with what you have, you are never going to grow anymore,” Boyd said. “You need to always enjoy what you have done, but you need to grow and expand and really push yourself. If you are satisfied, then you aren’t doing it right.”

As Boyd continued to excel on the field with this motto in his head, colleges started to gain interest in the 6-foot-2 linebacker. After receiving five collegiate offers to play football, Boyd first committed to Iowa State his junior year, but changed his mind after getting a call from Baylor.

“I was actually on my way back from a visit at Iowa State when Coach [Phil] Bennett called me,” Boyd said. “We came and sat down with Coach [Art] Briles and Coach Bennett, and they offered me. I was so excited. I didn’t even think twice about it. I feel bad, but I guess it’s sort of the nature of the game – decommitting. I signed with Baylor on signing day, and of course Iowa State coaches weren’t happy with that.”

Although he signed with Baylor on signing day in 2011, Boyd quickly found himself in tough spot – a spot that his coach and family would try and talk him out of. He had his mind and heart set on something: The Marines Corps.

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Kyle Boyd enlists in the Marines, forgoing his full ride to Baylor in 2011. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Baylor Athletics

“I had a true calling. I had never had this in my life. I just felt like I really needed to do this. I was a hard headed 18-year-old. I was trying to rebel against everything everyone told me to do. Coach Webb tried to talk to me. I had the Baylor coaches come down and try to talk me out of it. My dad tried to talk me out of it,” Boyd said. “I had people trying to set me up with ex-Marines, but I couldn’t back out of it. I had to do it, it was what my heart was calling me to do, and it felt like it was right.”

While many may have jumped at the opportunity to play a collegiate sport, Boyd saw the bigger picture for his life, and those closest to him supported him.

“At first we were shocked, it sort of came out of left field,” said Doug Boyd, Kyle Boyd’s father. “Kyle was never one to express his feelings. He keeps to himself for the most part, but when he came to us and told us we were surprised. We tried to talk him out of it, and tried to tell him to get his education first. We told him he could always join the Marines when he was done with college, but he was dead set on it.”

Deployed in 2011, Kyle Boyd poses while he was in service. Boyd spent most of his time stationed in Hawaii. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Baylor Athletics

Although it was not what Boyd’s parents had envisioned for their son’s life, Doug said they continued to support him even when he was far from home.

“We support him 100 percent in what he decided, and looking back at it now, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Doug said. “I’m more proud of him for doing that than anything he has ever done in his life. It took a lot of courage for him to do that, a lot of inner strength, and if we could go back and do it again I wouldn’t change a thing. We are extremely proud of Kyle for serving his country. There aren’t many things that are larger than sacrificing yourself and serving your country and giving up the opportunity he had at that time.”

Boyd would find himself stationed in Hawaii for two years after enlisting in the Marine Corps.

“It was cool to be there and those experiences, but its kind of one of those places you only want to be at for a week. You don’t want to live there. I was probably there for a year and a half. I had a total of two years on my contract. The other years, we were training in different states and in other countries,” Boyd said. “In my deployments, we didn’t go to Afghanistan. My unit stopped deploying to Afghanistan three months before I got there. But being in the infantry, it’s tough. You never get to go do your job really. It’s like practicing football for four years and never getting to play. You would train for nine months and then have a deployment, and then you would train during that deployment. Then you would come back, and you would just train again. It was a never ending cycle of training.”

Though Boyd never regretted his decision to serve his country, he said he wondered what it would be like to come back and play collegiate football. Toward the end of his deployment, Boyd started to write to coaches and show interest in playing, but he was a long way away from being prepared for the tests of football.

His body was in shape for endurance. He would have to gain the muscle he once had back, but that was the least of his troubles, as he didn’t hear back from any coaches immediately.

However, when the call came, Boyd was ready.

“I finally I got in contact with Beau Trahan. I was super happy…I knew my scholarship was not there anymore, but I came down and went on a visit,” Boyd said. “Coach Briles saw me, and he recognized me. He saluted me on the field, and I was like, ‘Whoa!’ Coach Bennett remembered me, and the other coaches remembered me, and they said they would be happy to have me on as a walk on.”

For many, July 7 was just another day in the year, but for Boyd it was a second chance. Boyd checked in at Baylor as a student and athlete that day. After nearly five years of never putting on a helmet or strapping on shoulder pads, Boyd found himself in a familiar place: on the football field.

“It was all surreal to me. My first day of practice I was fresh, I was just ready to be out here. I still think about that when I start to get complacent. I think about where I was and just how thankful and fortunate I am to put on a uniform,” Boyd said. “The first game I got a lot of butterflies. That first game, putting on a jersey and knowing that I was going to go hit someone on the other team, it was amazing.”

Doug believes that God has a plan for everything in life, and for Kyle, it was to join the Marine Corps at the time that he did, and now it is to be at Baylor.

“Without faith, I don’t know where he would be and where we would be,” Doug said. “God has a plan for all of us, and I believe Kyle followed what God was leading him to do.”

While many play for the fame and the glory, Boyd was able to show who he plays for on Sept. 10 against Southern Methodist University. Boyd proudly led his team onto the field on Military Appreciation Day as he waved the American flag above him.

“I love my parents, I love everything, but I kind of made it for myself to go back and play for those guys…from where I was and from where we served, and the way we lived. The lifestyle is hard, it’s cold, it’s gritty, but coming back here,” Boyd said. “I play for those guys because they don’t get the chance, and they really care, and are really special to me. If I can bring more awareness and more love for the military, than I’m going to do it any way I can. Being on the football team and fly that flag really meant a lot. I do it for them.”

As Boyd continues to lean on God, he also holds dear to his heart the example his father has set for him.

“My father is my role model,” Boyd said. “I know it’s cliche, but my father is more of a man than I could even hope to be, and hope I can be there for my children one day the way he is.”