Fate didn’t just smile on Miles Boykin.
One of the football gods came out of the sky, smiled, but his arm around the junior receiver from Notre Dame and said “Kid, I know things haven’t gone your way all that much at South Bend, but wait until you see what we have in store for you! Happy New Year!’’
Boykin caught one of the greatest passes in Notre Dame history in the Fighting Irish’s 21-17 victory over LSU in the Citrus Bowl Monday in Orlando.
Shortly after LSU grabbed a ton of momentum with a late touchdown before the double-teamed Boykin hauled an Ian Book pass down with his right hand, tucked it in and crashed into one defender. Boykin stayed upright. The other guy was taken out of the play.
Then Boykin made a quick juke to get by the other defender and turned up the speed for 55-yard reception with 1 minute, 28 seconds left in the game and that stood up as the winning score.
The next day, t-shirts were being sold online that said “INCREDIBLE HAPPENED 1.1.2018.”
He cemented his name in ND history with that grab – even if he never plays another down of football. The next time a book about the history of ND football is written, this play will receive plenty of attention. It’s something his kids, grandkids, great grandkids and all of their offspring are going to hear about.
I am just a neutral observer when it comes to Notre Dame football but I let out a yell when I saw the play live.
Full disclosure – I know the kid.
From second game through high school, Boykin played basketball either with or against my son, T.J. over the years, including a stint in which they were teammates on the Orland Park-based Orland Magic, which morphed into the Windy City Magic. We spent a part of one of his birthdays with his family at one of this favorite restaurant, Jullianni’s in Palos Heights,
So it was cool to see him on the living room big screen make the big play.
The former Providence Catholic standout and Tinley Park native is strong, fast and skilled. But for a play like this to happen, some luck and a lot of fate comes into play.
First off, he was fortunate to be in the game at that crucial time.
After sitting out his freshman year as a redshirt, about the biggest noise from Boykin in the past two seasons was when a ball hit his foot on a special teams play in 2016, giving the ball to Michigan State and coach Brian Kelly, whose face was as red as the sauce on a Jullianni’s pizza, screamed “Are you dumb?!!?” for all the world to see.
He was sparingly used this year and had nine catches for 151 yards and a touchdown heading into the game.
Fate came in with an injury to Chase Claypool and Kevin Stepherson was suspended for the second time this season. Those two receivers were not available so it was Boykin time.
Second, fate allowed Book to throw a not-so-perfect pass. Has the pass drilled Boykin in the numbers, the odds were better that the LSU defenders could have nailed him right away and it would have still been a big catch but not THE CATCH.
Instead, he reached up with his right paw for what appeared to be an uncatchable ball and that threw the defense out of whack a little.
“Ian put the ball where only I could reach it,” Boykin told reporters after the game. “It was a great pass and I was lucky enough to pull it down on one hand. I’ve got pretty big hands.’’
One slip on the wet surface of the field or a million other things could have gone wrong on the play.
Instead, it became iconic.
The only thing that could have made this play even bigger would have been if the game was for the national championship.
But hey, there’s time.
Boykin has two more years of eligibility left.