Its early June, scorching heat nearly fries the turf field at Oakville’s St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic secondary school.
This is the venue where fans would get a chance to see their defending CFL champions, Toronto Argonauts play in the “Double Blue Mock game”, team scrimmage.
On the field is the league’s Most Outstanding Player, Chad
Owens, the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player, Chad Kackert, the team’s newly signed prized defensive tackle, Khalif Mitchell, and star quarterback Ricky Ray.
With all the star power, it’s the figure standing as far from it that is generating the talk of the day when the intrasquad scrimmage comes to a close.
With a dark grey shirt, black pants and dark designer sunglasses he stood, in between the bleacher entrance, out of plain sight of the crowd of fans.
He is crowned by an oversized Chicago White Sox fitted cap. Worn just above his eyebrows, over his shades as a mechanism for mystery, rather than a fashion statement.
Cory Boyd is still noticeably chiseled and much ready to hit the gridiron running. He remains stoic, expressionless, saying almost nothing while he chews on sunflower seeds.
He still makes a conscious effort to take time out to shake hands with each person who recognizes him through his guise.
Taking a moment to address even some media members, Boyd makes his reasoning clear, or it appears he does.
“I’m just trying to stay incognito brother. Enjoy football as a fan and see what the teams in league have got going.”
Boyd last played for the Edmonton Eskimos in 2012, where he only gained 148 yards on 27 carries and a single touchdown in six games.
That year was an interesting one for the two-time CFL all star. He was released by the Toronto Argonauts just four games into the season, while leading the league in rushing with 447 yards.
Twelve days pass, and a sweaty Boyd is playing a competitive game of “H-O-R-S-E” against numerous elementary school children. It’s another hot afternoon, this time inside a gym.
It’s all smiles at Ephraim’s Place Community Centre near the notorious corner of Jane and Sheppard in Toronto.
After the game, Boyd opens up about what he hinted at before.
“It’s a terrible part of the business, when you get into it you never know how long your stardom will last. How long people will love you. How many people truly care about you. All you can do is just be you” he says.
Boyd’s organization, CB3 Performance, along with his business partners, ‘4Reasonz’ are hosting over 25 children from the inner city for their first annual exercise circuit.
He is more bubbly, and extroverted than the chilling figure standing in between the bleacher entrance.
“I’m still in my prime, I still have great opportunity. I just need the favour of God to be on somebody else’s team and display that” a confident Boyd says.
“When I came to Canada, every CFL team wanted me to come to their workout on my own dime and I had felt as though all the hard work that I put in through the years would make it all I needed was to show film.— when I came to Canada, I came to play for the Toronto Argonauts. Hands down, they gave me my first opportunity. And I will be forever grateful to that team.”
Glaring humility from the one-time franchise player.
There has been great debate surrounding his release, some cite issues in blocking and protection of Ray where others, including, former teammate Rob Murphy publicly stated Boyd was a poor teammate.
“Look at the tape … it seems that the easy way out was to blame me for whatever reason when a play went wrong. Last time I checked there are five offensive linemen,” Boyd said in response to the blocking criticisms.
“Cory Boyd was and still has the potential to be a difference maker in this league” Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich said.
“Though he is no longer on our team, it was a hard decision to release him, there were some protection issues and there always will be but that was a move that we had to make to upgrade in our backfield.”
The release was not a determination of his character, he was a great teammate for us and he’s a great guy” said Milanovich.
Here and now
It is week six of the season and he is a man without a team, so just why isn’t Cory Boyd on a CFL roster?
“He can probably still play, but at what price do you pay him? Especially now that he’s getting up there (in age)” Frank Zicarelli, of the Toronto Sun, said in a candid conversation during the mock game about the prospect of a return for the running back.
“For every guy like Boyd, you have a guy like Kackert and (Gerald) Riggs who are cheaper and will help in the passing game. That was Boyd’s flaw; you had to feed him a lot to get an impact,” said Zicarelli.
Boyd is aware of the negativity that many media members associate with his name. He doesn’t shy away from the issue but has a take on it.
“My climb to grace was great when I first got here. I jumped on the scene and popped off when nobody knew of a ‘Cory Boyd’. I was just a regular rookie that no one knew about. Through the grace of God he showed himself through me on the field …”
He puts the interview on hold to say goodbye to three children leaving the circuit who want to show him their prizes.
“Keep fit, eat right, you gotta’ eat the right things when you go to school and listen to your parents. You can grow strong and be like me. I’m going to miss you little buddy,” he tells a young boy with a big smile, who replies “Me too!”
“As fast as the media bigged me up … All I thought I was doing was playing the game of football, I guess to the media, it seemed I could do no wrong. It seemed I was perfect. Everybody wanted to compare me to some of the Toronto Argonauts’ greatest and I hadn’t even scratch the surface yet of what I could do.” He said.
“Everybody was looking for the next ‘Pinball’ (Clemons), there will never be another Pinball,” Boyd said.
Boyd accepts the perception that comes with his name and is physically and mentally prepared if another team comes calling or they don’t. In the meantime, he has armed himself with another purpose.
With his CB3 organization, Boyd makes use of his time away from the league. He remains focused on teaching health, nutrition and healthy lifestyles to kids.
Again standing as far away from the gridiron, he generates a crowd.