Boyd signs three-year extension with Argos

Argos running back Cory Boyd signs autographs at the Canadian International Auto Show on Feb. 21,...

Argos running back Cory Boyd signs autographs at the Canadian International Auto Show on Feb. 21, 2011. (MARK O'NEILL/QMI Agency)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:06 PM ET

TORONTO - Cory Boyd has never before in his 25 years had a place to love, and be loved.

The constants in life have been violence, rejection and poverty. Born in the slums of Orange, New Jersey, he watched his mother die in prison before the drugs could get her.

He has been both a school-boy bully, and bullied, and he has felt the icy grip of depression.

Then, came the Toronto Argonauts, and a second chance as a professional football player. In the process, he may have found something much more precious — a home.

Monday, Boyd turned a stellar rookie season as the second-leading rusher in the CFL into a three-year contract extension with the Argos.

Some will suggest that the Argonauts got him cheap, something approaching six figures per season. But coming from nothing, this is the first time that Boyd has a least felt like he is in the money.

“When I came here I had one American dollar. Now I have a lot more to be grateful for and to look forward to,” Boyd said. “I won’t have to worry about the outside things: Where I’m living, how I’m going to eat, if I can save enough money to stay here in the off-season. Off the field will be easier.”

Nothing has ever been easy for Boyd. Selected by Tampa in the NFL draft, he got into a fight with the club’s No. 1 draft pick in 2008. Shortly after, he was cut. There was one game with Denver in 2009 before getting dusted.

“I had my chances. I wasn’t humble at the time. I didn’t know what I was getting into and I blew it. I honestly blew it,” he said.

It didn’t look like it would work out in Toronto either when a concussion sidelined him in training camp. His agent ducked out on him. Boyd returned only because coach Jim Barker thought he was worth a second look. Boyd became the first Argos running back since Michael Jenkins in 2001 to be named a CFL all-star.

But off the field, it was a season of inner turmoil. He played for less than $50,000. “Sleeping on people’s air mattresses and couches wasn’t really healthy.” Hardly the life of a superstar.

“I was looking at my paycheque and wasn’t really happy with it. I didn’t know about the taxes.” He and a couple teammates were paying $2,650 to rent a home. “I didn’t cook and I had to eat ... cable, hydro, over the season that’s pretty much where the rest of my money went and I was trying to save money to stay (in Toronto) in the off-season.”

His weight during the season ballooned from 215 to 240 because he ate mostly cheap junk food. Until Monday, he was never certain of his prospects, even after leading the CFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,722 last year. “It’s been a long winter. I had my ups and downs getting to this point. I’m not where I want to be (financially or professionally) and I’m not breaking the bank but ...”

But, he loves playing for Barker. He talks about becoming part of the community in much the same manner as legendary Argonaut Pinball Clemons, who also came from modest beginnings. “Now that I have this contract, I want people to know that this organization didn’t just help a player, they helped a person get my dignity back.”

His dreams of the NFL likely are dead. He’ll be 30 when his contract expires. But perhaps letting go of such dreams isn’t such a tragedy when Jermaine Coleman shows up at your news conference and calls you his “little brother”; when there’s money to finally buy a decent car and pay the bills.

“NFL? I don’t know what God has for me,” he said, his news conference sprinkled with references to an Almighty presence not named Barker. “As a youngster I always said I wanted to be a professional athlete and that’s what was on TV; the NFL. But there’s always another path.”

As hard-found as it has been to find his path, Boyd believes and prays, it will lead to a Grey Cup in Double Blue; a career emulating Clemons on the field and in the community. Boyd has hooked up with the club’s anti-bullying Huddle Up campaign.

“I feel I’m forgiven now for all my mistakes,” Boyd said. “I feel this is my league. It caters to the way I play. If I tried to go to the NFL ... I probably won’t make it and I’d be back here. I’m loyal to those who are loyal to me. And this organization has been loyal from the beginning and I’d rather stick it out here.”

Boyd has found security, caring, success and a place to call home. You can’t put a price on that.


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