Dennis Waszak Jr. (AP)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Tajh Boyd has more records at Clemson than he can count.
Yards passing. Touchdown throws. Completion percentage. He has them all — 57 school and Atlantic Coast Conference marks overall.
And, the New York Jets’ sixth-round pick knows none of them mean a thing anymore.
“I like to think that I’m a deep thinker sometimes,” a smiling Boyd said Saturday after his second day of rookie minicamp practices. “So, I’m sitting in my room and going through the playbook and it really just hit me that, ‘You’re just a small fish in a big pond again.'”
It has been a while since Boyd felt that way, probably since his redshirt freshman season at Clemson in 2009. Boyd worked his way onto the field, eventually becoming the Tigers’ starting quarterback and soon establishing himself as one of college football’s most dynamic players with 11,904 career yards passing and 107 touchdowns. He also ran for 26 scores.
But with the Jets, he’ll be competing for the No. 3 job with Matt Simms, while Geno Smith and Michael Vick battle to be the starter.
“There’s going to be ups and downs and you’ll get frustrated and a little confused sometimes, but that’s just part of the process,” Boyd said. “After a while, you start to emerge again as one of the bigger fish.”
After the 2012 season, Boyd was exactly that: a Heisman Trophy candidate and a possible first-round draft pick. Rather than jump to the NFL at that point, he chose to stay at Clemson.
“For me, it was all about having no regrets when I left school,” he said. “I wanted to see if could go out there and get a national championship, and I wanted to go out there to see if I could win the Heisman.
“None of those things happened, but I most definitely enjoyed my experience.”
Boyd statistically had an even better year last season than he did the previous year, but critics and so-called draft experts pointed out some of the flaws in his mechanics, his height — he’s 6-foot-1 — and sometimes erratic play. Suddenly, he wasn’t being mentioned in the same conversations as Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater, all first-round picks.
He wasn’t even in the discussion of the next group of quarterbacks such as Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Savage. Boyd slid from a first-round hopeful all the way to the sixth round and the 13th of 14 quarterbacks drafted last weekend.
Boyd was sitting with a few of his new Jets teammates during a lunch break earlier this week when they asked if he had second thoughts about going back to school instead of declaring for the draft a year earlier.
“I don’t regret the decision at all,” he said. “I feel like I’m in the right position. I feel like I’m with the right team.”
Boyd got a lot of work during the practice sessions the past few days, with former Green Bay seventh-rounder B.J. Campbell the only other quarterback in rookie camp. Some of the concerns — his mechanics, footwork, inaccuracy — showed up at times. But Boyd also flung a few pretty deep passes.
“You want to get out there and you want to do so well,” Boyd said, “that you kind get like a brain freeze out there sometimes.”
Coach Rex Ryan compared Boyd’s situation to that of Smith’s last year, in that they both had to learn pro-style offenses. That includes Boyd having to take snaps from under center after coming out of the shotgun almost exclusively at Clemson.
“He’s got a long way to come as far as timing routes and steps and his footwork and all that type of stuff,” Ryan said. “It’s got to come a long way, but I think he’s got the physical talent to be an accurate passer. He’s got a great arm, but there’s a lot of work there.”
Ryan is plenty familiar with Boyd because his son, Seth, was a redshirt freshman wide receiver at Clemson last year and relayed to his father how impressive a leader the quarterback was. The coach pushed for the team to take Boyd as he fell through the draft, and even joked later about how it was no surprise as to which of the team’s picks was “his.”
Boyd acknowledged that knowing Ryan is in his corner is a bit of a relief, but intends to prove the coach right for having the Jets draft him.
“I expect to be coached hard every practice, in the film room, on the field, and it’s a respect factor that comes,” Boyd said. “It’s not necessarily anything that’s given with that. It’s all about earning that, whether it’s the work you’re putting in or those guys seeing that you’re committed and you’re passionate about it.”