"Stephen Boyd"



Stephen Boyd


By Dr. Ken

With professional, college, and high school football preparation camps in full swing, football is more prominent in the thought process of the average person. Readers of HELMET HUT are no doubt imbued daily with football related thoughts throughout the entire year but for many older men like me, this is truly the time of year associated with a rebirth. I never followed the standard calendar nor did my body seem to respond to the seasonal changes the same way others did. The start of fall football camp was the beginning of my new year. The end of the football season, not the end of the Christmas holidays or the actual New Year marked a demarcation point in my outlook, development, and thought processes. One of my long time trainees and the training partner of my middle son was Stephen Boyd. Stephen was the Gatorade High School Player of the Year in New York State, a Consensus All American at Boston College, and the recipient of three Pro Bowl nominations in his eight season professional career with the Detroit Lions.

His level of success obviously did not make him “typical” in any way though the rhythms that his mind and body followed as a football player, did in fact mimic those that I experienced. I usually did not involve myself with the social or more accurately, dating life of my sons or their friends but I asked Stephen during one of his more successful seasons in Detroit if he “was seeing anyone special.” I should have expected the answer I received from this fierce, dedicated linebacker. He gave me a quizzical look and stated, “Doc, do you really think any woman would want to see me socially during the season? I’m so focused on being the best I can be, studying film, lifting weights, and doing all of the things necessary to be mentally ready for practice and games each week, even I don’t want to see myself socially!”

Stephen Boyd during off-season preparation work

 I could easily relate as my entire year was predicated on my level of physical and “football smart” enhancement and its fruition on the field. Post-Christmas workouts leading to spring ball preparation was one “season” as opposed to “winter.” Spring football practice and training going into the summer was the next seasonal designation. The employment consisting of rather brutal manual labor and night time bouncing in conjunction with the hard, grueling lifting and running workouts that lasted through June and July substituted for what most people called “summer.” All led to the start of fall camp and the dawning of another year. New Years Eve meant little more to my comrades and me than a night of work that allowed us to pick up double time in pay. Parties were unnecessary because it just wasn’t our “new year.” Decades after actually playing, my body and the bodies of so many other former players I know and speak with still respond to the same yearly rhythm.

1968 All American and University of Cincinnati great Greg Cook “enjoyed” the extensive, year round running program instituted by new head coach Homer Rice during 1967 and ‘68

I had the pleasure of growing up in Long Beach, N.Y. For those who saw the 2002 film City By The Sea, a Robert DeNiro movie that depicted a murder in Long Beach, the dilapidated and run-down grittiness of the city was obvious. Residents of course know that while the story was set in Long Beach, the actual filming was done in Asbury Park, N.J. but before “getting off the hook” as a violent, sadly neglected beach side haven for junkies and criminals, an excerpt from the original magazine article that inspired the movie perhaps serves as a reminder of how it truly was, at least for a few decades.

“Long Beach advertises itself as the ‘City by the Sea’ on flapping blue banners at every traffic light. The town is a two-mile-wide stretch that runs seven miles long on a barrier island off the southwestern tip of Long Island. Long Beach is seedy, like bad Florida. Once, it was a summer haven for wealthy vacationers. But as the fifties ended and state parkways improved, the richest of the Silent Generation discovered a more affluent quiet in the Hamptons. In the early 1970's, the city fell into disrepair and became home to large numbers of the impoverished, the old, and the mentally ill. Today, there are about thirty-five thousand people crowded into four sections of the city -lower- and middle-class Irish and Italians in the west, blacks in housing projects in the north, middle-income Jews and nursing-home residents in the south, middle- to upper-class Jews in the east. For kids like Winston (the murder victim) and others before him, everything there was a high: the drugs, the waves, the sex, the violence.”

This shouldn’t serve as an indictment of Long Beach. It was up, it was very down as an enclave for the waves of mentally ill wards and welfare recipients of the State and County that the City fathers took in to bolster a weak tax base, and once again, it is up. Still with pockets of squalor and violence, there are new beach front hotels, an inviting and safe boardwalk filled with exercise enthusiasts and families, and excellent restaurants and stores. During every phase of its existence, Long Beach remained the perfect place to live and certainly, presenting an opportunity to run in solitude on the beach, over sand dunes, and in both knee and waist deep water, it was the perfect place to prepare all year long for football. The body clock mechanism that was established more than fifty years ago still won’t allow a walk on the beach that does not include fond memories of running a series of 40 or 60 yard sprints. A peaceful evening spent standing on the rocks of the beach jetties overlooking the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the surfers atop their boards, is always interrupted by happier thoughts of slashing through those waves as they broke near the beach, trying to outrun imaginary opponents dressed as the Sailors of Oceanside High School, the Flyers of the University Of Dayton, or the Firebirds of Pottstown, Pennsylvania. I can’t imagine most readers and fans of HELMET HUT not feeling exactly the same.