Notre Dame WR Miles Boykin's confidence surging with both football, ceramics

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Miles Boykin is a shark, and Julian Love is a hot dog.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a hot dog, per se. Especially this one, generously slathered in mustard, onions, relish, peppers, tomatoes and at least one pickle, produced by beloved restaurant chain Portillo’s and voraciously devoured.

“It’s nice,” Boykin conceded on Saturday. “It’s just not as good as my shark.”

Boykin — a 6-foot-4, 227-pound soon-to-be senior wide receiver from Tinley Park, Ill. — has really separated himself from the competition … in his ceramics class.

“There’s an all-football table there, and you have to work your way up to that table,” Boykin explained. “I’m the best right now. I’m the best. I had the best midterm grade.”

In the cutthroat world of competitive ceramics, Boykin maintains that his ceramic shark far outclasses Love’s recently concocted ceramic Portillo’s hot dog. He shares the class with Love, safety Alohi Gilman and running back Tony Jones Jr.

But in a much more accurate sense, he’s in a class all by himself.

Both with pots and pigskins.

“They’re not in the same category,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said on Saturday, when asked how Boykin compares this spring with fellow Irish wide receivers Chase Claypool, Chris Finke and Michael Young. “He’s a guy that can defeat 1-on-1 coverage and get you out of a loaded box by just throwing a fade to him. Those guys don’t have that, and we’re not asking them (to). We didn’t recruit them for that purpose.

“We recruited Miles for that, and he’s giving it to us. If you drop an eighth hat (near the line of scrimmage) and you’re going to leave him 1-on-1 to the boundary, you’re going to have to deal with him going up and getting the football. We think he can take it away from anybody.”

That was certainly the case on New Year’s Day, when Boykin singlehandedly — literally — salvaged a Citrus Bowl victory for Notre Dame, snaring an Ian Book pass with his right hand along the sideline, eluding LSU defensive backs Donte Jackson and John Battle and cruising into the end zone for the game-winning, 55-yard score.

Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin (81) makes a one-handed catch on a touchdown reception to put Notre Dame ahead in the final moments of the Citrus Bowl game against LSU on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. TRIBUNE PHOTO/Robert Franklin

Boykin was the shark, preying on a couple helpless hot dogs.

“Around campus random people just come up to me and say thank you,” Boykin said of the catch’s legacy. “Or my professors will bring it up every now and then. It’s always funny when someone brings it up, but that’s not something I want to be defined as, obviously. We go to Notre Dame. That was a great win. I don’t want to take anything away from it, but we want to do more than win the Citrus Bowl.”

Boykin has certainly exhibited that attitude this offseason, making significant strides in ND director of football performance Matt Balis’ strength program. On Saturday, the Providence (Ill.) High alum reported that he can now broad jump nearly 11 feet, hit 40 inches on his vertical leap and squat more than 450 pounds.

He’s had the hands, but now he’s got the legs.

“Miles has always been a good player. He just wasn’t strong,” said Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long. “He’d get thrown around all the time. Now he’s got strength in the upper body, lower body. He can get off press (coverage).

“He’s as good playing the ball in the air as we have right now, and he’s really stepped up his game and is playing well.”

Boykin learned how to make contested catches both by dueling Irish defensive backs and studying accomplished NFL wide receivers, most notably future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson and the Houston Texans’ Deandre Hopkins.

Now, Notre Dame needs another of Boykin’s spring surges to carry into the fall, as the Irish replace two starting wide receivers — Equanimeous St. Brown and Kevin Stepherson, who combined for 52 catches, 874 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2017.

Can Boykin — who owns just 18 catches, 334 receiving yards and three touchdowns in three seasons in South Bend — be a true No. 1 receiver?

If attitude means anything, he’s already halfway there.

“Any time you step on that field you have to feel like you’re the best player on the field. Otherwise you’re not going to play like it,” Boykin said. “So I’ve had that mentality ever since I stepped on the field during spring, and I’m going to continue to have it. That’s not something that’s going to get taken away from me.”

As he stacks up impressive spring performances, Boykin’s confidence can’t be cracked. He’s the best, he knows it and he’s not afraid to say it.

Needless to say, it’s a pretty fine time to be a shark.

“I’m doing well in the class … and I’m better than (Love),” Boykin said without the slightest hint of humor. “My artwork is better than his.”


Twitter: @mikevorel

Miles Boykin during Notre Dame football spring practice Saturday, March 24, 2018, inside the Loftus Sports Center at Notre Dame in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN