When former Arizona Wildcats linebacker Brant Boyer limped away from the NFL, he had a herniated disk in his neck. His knees ached all the time. His hands hurt. A shoulder, too.
It was preseason 2005 when Boyer, then 34 years old, was cut by the Cleveland Browns after spending a year on injured reserve.
“I failed physicals with several teams when Cleveland released me,” he said.
“To be honest, I had played football so long, ever since I was 8 years old, I was a little bit burned out. I don’t know if I watched a football game for a year.”
He did some hunting back home in Utah. Some fishing. He became co-owner of OutWest Adventures LLC, specializing in guided hunts in Colorado. All the while, slowly, football began boiling in his blood again.
Boyer went through a coaching internship with Cleveland before the 2010 season. He did another internship last preseason with the New York Giants, who would go on to win the Super Bowl.
And, then, after the Indianapolis Colts hired Chuck Pagano in late January, Pagano — who was a Browns defensive assistant when Boyer was there from 2001 to 2003 — called to offer Boyer his first full-time coaching job. Boyer quickly accepted.
The ex-Wildcat is the Colts’ assistant special teams coach.
“The more I was away from the game, the more I missed it,” Boyer said.
“I couldn’t be happier. I have been taught by some of the best people in the game and I felt like it would be cheating the kids to not give back.”
Boyer’s long NFL career was marked by his versatility — he could play any linebacker position — and his willingness to hustle, to throw his body around, to do whatever it took, made him one of the top special teams players in the league.
He set the Jacksonville Jaguars record for special teams tackles with 25 in 1997, a mark that stood for 11 years. He was the special teams captain for the Browns in 2002 and 2003 — a starter on every unit — and was rewarded after that season with a four-deal worth about $4.2 million.
Now, when he describes the kind of guy he wants on special teams, it’s as if he is looking in a mirror.
“I want a guy who cares about what he does, who has the courage to go down there, who understands that he is part of something bigger and accept that role that he is going to take,” Boyer said.
“Those are the kind of guys I gravitate to, the guys who don’t give up and go 100 miles an hour. It might not be their first choice to play special teams, but it should mean something to you.”
Boyer was a linebacker on the Wildcats’ Desert Swarm era defenses of 1992 and 1993, leaving such an impact he recently was selected as one of the UA’s all-time “badass” players by TucsonCitizen.com’s Javier Morales.
When he reflects on the toll a decade in the NFL took on his body, he talked about managing the pain and not having any regrets.
“I’d have done it for free,” Boyer said. “That’s true, too.”
It’s that kind of team-first, can-do attitude that Boyer hopes to bring to the Colts as he begins his coaching career at the age of 40.
“As I spent more time with coaching, I felt like this is what I was born to do,” Boyer said. “My opportunity has now come, and I’m going to approach it like a player and knock that door down.”