It is gray, cold and otherwise overcast on this miserable Monday morning; perfect weather for football. To the forty-plus Chaminade students on the field, this is the equivalent of a healthy Spring day with the sun shining brightly in the sky as the first day of scrimmage practice begins. Overseeing these two weeks of up-and-downs, two weeks of drills, two weeks of punishment before the season opener is Stephen Boyd, the sophomore head coach and former member of the Detroit Lions.
"You don't just show up somewhere and say 'I want to coach'," Boyd said when asked how he succeeded Bill Basel, the longtime coach of the Varsity squad. But "there's no other place I would want to do this at."
A graduate of Valley Stream Central High School and the recipient of the 1989 Thorp Award as Nassau's top football player, Boyd was splitting time between Florida and New York in 2002 before receiving a phone call asking if he would be interested in a position at Chaminade as an assistant coach on the JV squad. "I had no idea how much fun I was gonna have," Boyd said. "When the season was over I was still kinda trying to figure out what the next step was going to be and I did it for another year and I was offered the opportunity to be part of the school full-time, and I said 'this is what I definitely want to do'." Basel retired in January of 2009 with a record of 125-87 over 22 years.
Boyd's time in the NFL was sure to draw attention, but the former linebacker downplays the hero worship that often comes with playing in the pros. "I don't really want them to look at it that way," Boyd said, referring to the Chaminade players. "I shared some of the experiences with them but I think once they get to know me they kind of forget about that and that's a good thing. I just try to be a teacher and a mentor now."
Retiring with his name high on the lists of Lion's franchise records, Boyd had 156 tackles during the 1998 season, with a career best 188 in 1999, earning him a spot on his first of two All-Pro teams. That year also resulted in his final playoff appearance, a 27-13 loss to the Washington Redskins in the NFC wild card game. The Lions were shutout until the fourth quarter. "That was a rough one," Boyd said. "That was a long day for everybody."
Boyd hung up his No. 57 jersey after playing four games in the 2001 season due to pain in his back. He still keeps tabs on the Lions, but was on the verge of pulling his hair out with the winless 2008 season. "I felt bad for the organization, I felt bad for the people of Michigan. I felt bad for everybody, (it) broke my heart."
If the subject of his playing days ever becomes a topic of conversation with his players, Boyd tries to deflect the subject. "There's more guys in the NFL with college degrees than you think and when they ask me that's what I really try to focus on and talk to them about," he said. Boyd isn't trying to bring some inside NFL information or professional moves down to the high school level. "I want them to understand that there's a lot of ups and downs in a season, but as long as you're playing your best, at the end that's what counts."
Chaminade currently holds a 4-6 record under Boyd's stewardship. They will open their eight-game season at home .