CLEMSON — For the past week, Tajh Boyd deliberated over a decision: to stay for his senior year at Clemson or turn pro.
Tajh Boyd by the numbers
Tajh Boydheight: 6-1 weight: 225 Hometown: Hampton, Va. Highlights: Boyd is 21-6 as a starter and holds 39 team records, including single-season passing yardage (3,896 yards), passing TDs (36) and TD responsibility (46) records. He was named MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl and 2012 ACC player of the year.Career stats:passing yardage: 8,053passing touchdowns: 73interceptions: 18completion percentage: 62.4 yards per attempt: 8.14
The closing argument in favor of turning pro went like this: Boyd’s NFL draft grade ranged from the late second to the early fourth round. If he turned pro, he was likely to secure a high six-figure signing bonus. He’s unlikely to be a first-round pick in 2013 or 2014 due to his height. He was the ACC player of the year this season. He was named MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl after a remarkable performance against LSU. Had he reached his college ceiling? He was also losing friends. He scrolled through his cellphone contacts over the past week and realized his closest teammates, Andre Ellington, Brandon Ford, Corico Wright, were departing seniors.
But the case for returning to Clemson was equally strong.
If Boyd tuned in to talk radio over the past week, he would have heard about how he had a chance to be mentioned as one of the program’s all-time great players … if he came back. He is a Ring of Honor candidate, a Heisman candidate, if he returned. He loves playing under assistant coach Chad Morris. Perhaps most important, oddsmakers rank Clemson as the eighth likeliest team to win a national title in 2013.
Boyd went back-and-forth for five days. He listed pros and cons before making a decision Tuesday night. Boyd entered the West Zone team meeting room at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and read his verdict: he was returning for his senior season.
Clemson Nation exhaled.
A reporter asked if the decision was legacy-driven or inspired by improving his prospect status.
“It’s team-driven,” Boyd said. “I feel we can take the next step. We want to be perfect, we want to be 12-0, 13-0. … I do feel your ultimate goal is to come in and leave a legacy. You want to be mentioned among those (great) names, the best teams. Whatever you do, you want to be your best at it. Hopefully I’ll put myself in position to be mentioned among the best quarterbacks.”
The decision was largely about legacy for a player who has already won 21 games and holds 39 program records.
Even if Boyd somehow improves upon his program-record 3,986 passing yards and 36 touchdowns from 2012, the 6-1 Boyd knows his lack of prototype height might keep him out of the first round of the NFL draft.
“If I’m 6-5 right now, I’m the No. 1 draft pick,” Boyd said.
With his return, Clemson figures to be a preseason top-10 team when the Tigers open against Georgia on Aug. 31. A win against Georgia would start national title talk.
“I feel like it can be a special year and I want to be a part of it,” Boyd said. “Ultimately, I wasn’t ready to leave.”
Even if he can’t improve his draft stock — which is often based on tools and projection as much as production — Boyd thinks he can improve as a player.
“I think I did a pretty good job last offseason,” said Boyd, who reshaped his body and became a dual-threat QB. “But I have to turn it up even more because the expectations are going to be greater. I’m excited about the offseason. I’m excited about pushing these guys.
“When I worked with Andrew Luck (at George Whitfield’s camp last spring), he carried himself as a professional before he was a professional. You grow every year.”
What was also difficult about the decision was it was his alone to make.
Boyd reached out to family members, he received counsel from NFL quarterback Mike Vick and former teammate Dwayne Allen. The answers were remarkably similar: ‘it’s your choice to make.’ Few seemed to want to influence Boyd, few besides the Clemson coaching staff, which carried a powerful message: you only get one senior season.
“(They said) play with your brothers for one more year,” Boyd said. “Go out there with a chance to win championships.”