All-access with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin
There’s a bounce in his step and a smile that won’t leave his face. This is the charmed life, a far cry from what it was a year ago.
"I’m nervous," Trevone Boykin says through his smile, rubbing his hands together.
If any TCU fans at Globe Life Park on a hot, gray, muggy Wednesday night didn’t already recognize him, his custom-made TCU baseball jersey with the No. 2 and "Boykin" on the back helped.
Boykin circled the exterior of the ballpark to reach will call at the ticket counter before heading inside. He still had to make sure his soon-to-arrive fan club would get to see him throw out the first pitch. That group included his mom, dad, a close friend from high school and former TCU linebacker Paul Dawson.
How much did he practice for what he describes as "the coolest thing" he’s done away from the field at TCU? A nervous laugh and silence says all that’s needed.
"I’ve been throwing balls my whole life," Boykin says.
The doubt creeps in. He pauses.
"We’ll see when I get up there, though."
This new life is still, well, new for Boykin, fresh off a Big 12 title, Peach Bowl win and fourth-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.
That life follows him to Arlington.
He’s only been out of the car five minutes before the first fan — a former TCU student who worked for the school paper — asks for a photo. There will be 18 more photos with fans on the concourse and five autographs to sign before the first pitch leaves his hand.
"Last year, people knew I played college ball," Boykin said. "but they knew we just went 4-8, too."
Hanging out at TCU baseball games without getting hounded for photos was a lot easier during the Frogs’ 2014 run to the College World Series than it was this June, but it’s a problem Boykin welcomes.
His face is on magazine covers and atop Heisman shortlists now. The college football world’s view of him changed dramatically in just a few months. To keep it from changing his play and attitude, he’s kept his off-field life away from fans relatively constant.
His mom, grandmother and uncle make up a tight inner family circle. Conversations rarely touch on football, the only big thing in his life that’s undergone major change in the last year.
When Boykin arrives home, Taz and Cookie are waiting. They’re his pit bulls, with a pair of nicknames short for the Tasmanian Devil and Cookie Monster.
Taz is mostly black with white fur on his chest and joined the Boykin clan before Cookie, who is gray with white patches of fur on her chest and nose. These days, Boykin shares a house with teammate and safety Derrick Kindred, who has a pit bull of his own: Netta.
The puppies lived up to their monikers, chewing up doors, windowsills and a pair of Boykin’s $180 Jordans.
"About a year from now, it’s going to be time for them to have puppies," Boykin said.
The plan (for now) is to keep up to four for himself. Any more pups from Cookie will be on the market in Fort Worth.
In the fall, Boykin plans to complete an internship and an English class to finish the final six hours of a criminal justice degree.
Life after football?
"Maybe I’ll become a cop like Shaq," Boykin said.
His popular Twitter and Instagram accounts will slow soon: The relatively active user plans to shut both down during preseason camp.
He spent a chunk of his offseason rehabbing from a late April surgery on his left, non-throwing wrist. It made it easier to say no to the quarterback coaches who called after TCU’s 12-1 campaign in 2014, wondering if he was interested in a workout.
"He said no, that he needed to stay around and keep learning how to win games here," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
It didn’t keep Boykin from earning a prestigious invite to the Manning Camp for quarterbacks in Louisiana last weekend, serving as a counselor to younger campers. That trip provided time to watch, work alongside and learn from football’s most prestigious passing family.
He took with him a long, written list of questions, mostly for Peyton.
There are simple ones like improving footwork on drops and reading defenses. There are more complex queries, like finding the best ways to motivate and unite teammates.
Boykin’s chief struggle this time last year was belief: Could TCU’s new offense really work after an ugly spring? Plenty of fans and observers around Fort Worth and beyond also wondered how effective Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie’s Air Raid attack would be with personnel recruited for a more traditional system.
Would Boykin even get a chance to run the system after Patterson brought on senior transfer Matt Joeckel from Texas A&M, a veteran of a similar system under Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin?
Last offseason, he cut fast food from his diet and slimmed down to 205 pounds from 230, aiding his already stellar mobility.
Belief comes a lot easier these days for a self-described "self-motivated competitor" after winning the job in fall camp and putting 13 games on his highlight reel that established his case as college football’s best player entering 2015.
"(The attention) is an honor and a blessing, but all I really think about is winning games, being around my teammates and just having fun," he said.
Russell Wilson is the comparison he hears most these days.
"I don’t mind, I mean, he has what, two Super Bowl rings? He’s won a lot of games, he’s smart," Boykin said. "Good lookin’ wife."
Point made, even if Wilson technically has just one Super Bowl ring and pop star Ciara is only his girlfriend for now.
It’s also easy to believe Patterson’s response when the Texas Rangers initially asked him to throw out the first pitch last Wednesday on TCU Night at the ballpark.
"Why can’t Tre do it?" he said.
A month later, Boykin sat in the swanky Capital One Club at Globe Life Park to chow down on a modest buffet plate covered in ranch dressing and a handful of buffalo popcorn chicken.
The disbelief is palpable when his eyes drift to the field through the wall-sized windows in the stands high above home plate. He glances back to the plate and shakes his head, grinding his palm into his forehead.
He’s still not big enough to shrug off a coupon for a free blizzard on his way into the park. (Redeemable with a game ticket, of course. And hey, it’s not an illegal extra benefit if everyone gets one.)
On the way to the field after a light pregame dinner, a fan on the level above him screams, "Tre!"
Boykin looks up and seeing the fan’s TCU shirt, smiles. He curls his index and middle fingers to form the Horned Frogs’ hand sign. The fan snaps a long-distance photo that may not actually prove he crossed paths with the night’s honored guest.
After a few minutes on the field mingling and taking selfies with the Frogs’ baseball team, Boykin sneaks away to a bullpen behind the dugout for a quick warmup.
"I only threw two pitches," he says on his way back up the stairs to the field.
Since learning he’d throw out the first pitch, he watched rapper 50 Cent’s wayward attempt at a pitch before a Mets game "about 50 times."
"I just want to get it over the plate," Boykin says. "I can’t go too hard. Coach will be watching. I’m going to go easy on him."
He does. It’s high, but it finds TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle’s new, stiff catcher’s mitt provided by the Rangers.
"I didn’t bounce it and didn’t 50 Cent it," Boykin said. "I’m pretty happy with it."
He’s no "drop-down sidearm" pitcher. His form with a baseball isn’t much different than with a football.
"Thanks for not killing my husband," Kami Schlossnagle tells Boykin.
He retrieves the ball from Jim Schlossnagle’s glove and makes his way to a brief press conference.
"I’m going to keep this ball forever," he said.
Minutes later, Boykin is settled into his seat just behind home plate, surrounded by Schlossnagle, Patterson and their wives.
"Everybody should get to do this once," Gary Patterson said.
Not everybody does.
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