For many NFL rookies, the transition from big man on campus college football player to professional minnow fighting for a job can be quite daunting. But that's not the case for the Eagles' fourth-round pick, cornerback Brandon Boykin, a three-year starter and defensive captain at Georgia. Instead, he relishes the chance to prove himself once again.
"That's what I wanted," said Boykin after arriving at the NovaCare Complex for the first time ahead of this weekend's rookie minicamps. "I've never been given anything in my entire life. Going into Georgia, I was like a two- or three-star recruit, made a name for myself and came up through the ranks. Throughout this whole draft process, I got injured in the (Senior Bowl), that was very unfortunate, but for whatever reason it happened. So I'm here with the Eagles. I definitely don't expect any favors from anybody, and I know I have to work for everything. Like I said, I'm excited about that opportunity."
Boykin suffered a cracked fibula during the Senior Bowl in late January which forced him to sit out the NFL Scouting Combine and the Georgia pro day. But the dynamic cornerback and return man said he hopes to be full-go this weekend.
"I plan to," he said. "We still have a lot of stuff to do through here, physicals and a lot more stuff throughout the day, but I definitely plan on being out there tomorrow and just continuing to learn and do everything I can to be able to contribute this year."
Boykin's versatility is one of the big reasons Eagles fans are so excited about his addition to the roster. One of the most decorated returners in SEC history, Boykin has a litany of accomplishments to his credit. He ranks second in SEC history, and first at Georgia, with 2,663 kickoff return yards and totaled five touchdowns on returns during his career. In fact, Boykin received 2011 Paul Hornung award, given annually to the most versatile player in college football.
So when it comes to returning, Boykin is most definitely confident, but he also knows he has to earn the job.
"Does it belong to me?," he said. "I definitely want it to. Coming in as a rookie, I'm just going to work as hard as I can and try to make the best impression I can so that spot will be mine once the game comes.
(The key to returning is) Confidence. Bravery really. I think that first of all you have to have confidence in yourself because all eyes are on you once you get that ball. You have to catch it first though. For me, it's just not looking back, not hesitating, not second-guessing yourself. Whatever you see, go. I feel like if I continue to keep that same kind of mentality, the same success I had in college I think I can have similar success in the NFL."
As a senior, Boykin even contributed on offense, rushing seven times for 103 yards (14.7 per rush) and a touchdown while catching five passes for 71 yards (14.2 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. But he laughed off the suggestion that he'll lobby early for some touches on offense.
"Not very soon," he said. "I'm just going to do what I'm supposed to do right now, learn what I can and get familiar with what I'm supposed to right now. Hopefully later, whatever happens will."
Of course, his return ability is a great tool, but Boykin's main priority, especially this weekend, will be picking up the defense, where he'll likely get some work inside as a nickel cornerback in addition to his duties on the outside. Boykin expects his experience as a nickel cornerback at Georgia to help ease his transition.
"In order to come in here and play, you have to have some type of experience with it," he said. "Coming from Georgia and playing it for two years in my college coach's scheme, who actually came from the NFL, I think I actually had an advantage as far as learning that system early. Coming in here, I know it'll be a lot of different terminology, a lot more plays, but at the same time, I think I can transition well."
When Boykin does finally hit the field, some Eagles fans may think twice when they see a cornerback in midnight green wearing No. 22 who doesn't have dreadlocks coming through the back of his helmet. Indeed, Boykin has inherited Asante Samuel's former number.
"I was No. 2 in college, so talking to (the equipment staff), they said they'd give me the double deuces, it would be closer to my college number," said Boykin. "I'm excited about it, just being on Twitter and social media, everybody's like, 'You got Asante's number, you have to make something happen now.' So I'll definitely try to represent with 22 and just do what I can."
In all, Boykin seems very well prepared for the journey ahead. He has the right mix of confidence and humility needed to be successful as a professional, especially as a rookie.
"I'm confident in myself, confident in my abilities," he said. "I know that it's going to be a learning process as a rookie. I think that's something that I want to see myself, how quick can I learn? How long is it going to take me to learn how to be a pro and act like a pro and just kind of be around these veteran guys and follow after them? For me, it's just kind of getting acclimated, just following by their lead and just trying to be the best player I can."
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