PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Tyler Boyd shook out his legs, put his hands on the goal line and tried not think about the most important 4.5ish seconds of his football life.
The former Pittsburgh wide receiver took off in a flash, his white compression shirt, gray shorts and green-and-orange cleats a blur as two dozen NFL scouts looked on, thumbs hovering over stopwatches. Boyd powered his way through the end of his 40-yard dash, the scouts hitting the “stop” button in near unison.
You’d think Boyd’s school-record 254 catches during his three years with the Panthers would have been enough. Or his 22 career touchdowns. Or the way he glided through opposing defenses like a Ferrari amid a pack of minivans. Yet there Boyd was on Wednesday, his draft prospects hinging in part on getting the scouts and the teams they work for to hit “erase” on his forgettable 40 time at the NFL combine last month.
Admittedly a little too amped up in Indianapolis, Boyd trudged to a 4.58, a glacial pace by NFL wide receiver standards. It’s the main reason Boyd _ projected as high as a second-round selection _ joined several of his lesser heralded former college teammates during Pitt’s Pro Day.
Boyd seemed at ease with his performance on familiar turf at the UMPC Sports Complex, saying he was told he finished in the 4.46-4.47 range, the kind of speed he hopes will allay any fears about his ability to run away from defenders.
“I knew I had 4.4 in me,” Boyd said. “I didn’t like my 40 at the combine, I knew I could improve.”
Which is why Boyd didn’t bother to join the rest of the former Panthers _ including defensive linemen Khaynin Moseley-Smith and Darryl Render and defensive back Lafayette Pitts _ for the bench press, vertical leap, shuttle runs or most of the other drills. The 40 is all that mattered.
“My main focus was just showing them my tools, especially in the 40 area,” Boyd said. “In the field I knew my craft was pretty much legit, it was sharp.”
It certainly looked it while dazzling with his footwork during a brief session running routes before heading outside to field a few punts, all of which came after the 40-time that he hopes solidified his spot in the pecking order when the 2016 draft descends on Chicago from April 28-30. Boyd looked like a world-class sprinter as he prepped himself for the most important part of a very public job interview.
“The big thing is to just go up to the line and just relax, be yourself,” Boyd said. “Don’t be anxious with all the anxiety built up in you because you’re nervous to run.”
Boyd certainly looked comfortable in front of a large crowd that included former Panther and current Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald and Pitt running back James Conner, who is undergoing cancer treatment. In a way, Boyd’s decision to run may have helped out Moseley-Smith, Render and others. Render watched Boyd at the combine and was a little surprised Boyd would put himself out there again at Pro Day. After spending three years watching Boyd do his thing, Render figured the last thing Boyd needed to do is prove how fast he is.
“That game speed is going to be different,” Render said. “You know he’s going to do what he’s got to do on the field.”
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org