If you’ll pardon the one-more-time use of the overused “elite,” there’s little doubt Clemson senior quarterback Tajh Boyd ranks as an elite college-affiliated football quarterback. In fact, Boyd’s numbers look startlingly similar to the numbers of one Peyton Manning at Tennessee.
Boyd leads slightly in career completion percentage, 64.0 to 62.7; Manning leads slightly in passing yards per game, 252.4 to 250.6, and in touchdown-to-interception ratio, 2.82:1 to 2.76:1.
He’s responsible for an Atlantic Coast Conference-record 127 touchdowns. If you’re into attaching a team’s record to a quarterback, as is the custom these days, Boyd is 31-8 as a Clemson starter going into Friday’s Discover Orange Bowl against Ohio State.
But there’s no doubt that though (sorry) “elite,” Boyd’s not an elitist. Clemson’s unquestioned leader is a man of the people.
“Tajh Boyd is a great guy. You can ask everyone on this field the same question, and you’ll probably get the same answer,” Clemson junior wide receiver Adam Humphries said. “Say we’re standing around the lobby, he’ll never be in one place. He’s always moving around and just making sure everybody on the team knows he appreciates what they do, even scout team or starters. He’s a guy I’ve looked up [to]. I always have.”
Freshman safety Jayron Kearse, who is from South Fort Myers High, said: “He encourages everybody. Not just the offense. He encourages everybody — defensive backs, defensive ends, tackles, linebackers. He’s an all-around leader. It’s not just when people are looking, not just in the locker room. He’s helping us when coaches are not looking, he’s still being a leader.”
Boyd is no helicopter leader. Kearse said when it comes to student-athlete life, Boyd lets his underclassmen Clemson teammates make the same mistakes he did so they can learn from them as he did.
“To watch Tajh and how he interacts with our fan base, with our community, with our university — I mean, Tajh truly is the face of our university,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “And to watch the accolades that he’s gotten and the records that he’s broken on the football field, he’s done that much more off the field.
“I think, whether he takes another snap or not, for what he’s done for this program and for this university has been instrumental, and he’s definitely set the standard. Whoever the next quarterback’s going to be at Clemson University, he’s got big shoes to fill.”
And if Boyd shreds Ohio State on Friday night, know that the hardcore Buckeyes fans in the Sun Life Stadium seats will grumble amongst themselves something like, “He should’ve been doing that for us.”
Coming out of Hampton (Va.) Phoebus High School, Ohio State was one of many with the five-star recruit Boyd on their Get List. Boyd won the MVP award at the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and threw a touchdown pass to future Ohio State wide receiver Corey Brown in the game.
“If I would have committed at the Army All-American game during my recruiting process, I would have been a Buckeye right now,” Boyd said. “But getting the chance to go down there and meet [now fifth-year senior running back] Roderick McDowell and meet [2009 defensive end recruit] Malliciah Goodman, those guys like that, really kind of helped change the course of it. Definitely feel like this is the best spot for me. I couldn’t have picked a better school.
“It is kind of surreal to end your final game as a Clemson Tiger against Ohio State. It’s going to be a fun matchup, and I can’t wait.”