Pitt sophomore receiver Tyler Boyd hears the distant siren of the NFL, but he ignores it for the moment, turning his attention to a more immediate calling:
Resurrecting this season, the program and some attitudes among his teammates.
Boyd said several Pitt players, including himself and fellow Clairton graduates Kevin Weatherspoon, Terrish Webb and Titus Howard, have enough determination to help the team win now and in the future.
“James (Conner) has that in him. Ray (Vinopal) has it. Todd (Thomas) has it. K.K. (Mosley-Smith). T.J. (Clemmings) has it,” Boyd said.
Their numbers are limited, he said.
“I just feel like not everybody on both sides (of the ball) has it, though. Just a select few,” he said. “I just feel like everybody has to get on board with everybody, has to feed off each other. Because if we had more guys that are willing to go all out, then we won’t be able to be touched.”
Coach Paul Chryst said Boyd sets a tone for the team.
“Guys look at him and to him to see how he is going to respond,” Chryst said. “I’ve loved his response, and we are going to continue to need his leadership.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he wants one thing, and that’s for this team to win, and I think we have other guys like that.”
Boyd has made a distinct impact on the field, too, rising to seventh on Pitt’s all-time receptions list (137) after only 22 games. He is second in the ACC in yards per game (87.9).
Mention it, and Boyd all but sneers and shrugs his shoulders. To him, it’s not enough.
“I don’t feel like I made my mark here, even though I had 1,000 yards,” he said. “I don’t think that’s good enough.
“I’m a guy who is always going to want more and achieve more than what I did the previous year.
“We went to Little Caesars Bowl (last season). I felt like that was just another regular game. I felt like we can achieve better things and higher bowls than that.”
Pitt (4-5, 2-3) has three games remaining in the regular season, starting with North Carolina on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C. The team’s goal of winning the ACC Coastal Division has disappeared, and it must win at least two to reach bowl eligibility.
The current string of five losses in six games bothers Boyd, who was 48-0 as a starter at Clairton.
“It’s real hard,” he said. “It’s kind of sickening, you know. Even my head goes missing for a while after the game. I know other guys (get) lost out of space, as well.
“We just have to come back that next week hungry and wanting to do what we didn’t do. Guys should come back with a chip on their shoulder.”
Boyd said he tries to set an example, often getting vocal in the huddle during crucial moments. His athletic ability and knack for making big plays give him the credibility leaders need.
“Tyler is liable to make a play in any moment in the game,” Conner said. “When he gets going, there is no stopping him, and we can follow his lead.”
In the 51-48 double-overtime loss to Duke, Boyd made a 48-yard catch between two defenders in which the pass appeared likely to be batted down or intercepted. Somehow he reached around and over both players.
“Once I saw the ball in the air, all I wanted to do was make the catch,” he said.
He did, and Pitt scored three plays later.
“I’m a game-changer,” Boyd said. “That’s what I try to do for the team. I’m trying to better everybody else around me, and I hope everybody else around me is taking that in.”
Most draft experts believe it’s too early to make serious projections on Boyd’s NFL potential.
NFLDraftScout.com said the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Boyd would be the second-rated wide receiver behind Mississippi’s Laquon Treadwell if he waits until the 2017 draft. SportingNews.com produced a mock draft for 2016 that projects Boyd, if he leaves early, as the 15th player selected.
When asked about Boyd and the ’16 draft, ESPN draft analyst Kevin Weidl said, “I would estimate around the second-round range at this point.”
NFL.com draft analyst Gil Brandt, who likes to see prospects stay in school for four years, lists Boyd as “an ascending player,” but he hasn’t spent a lot of time analyzing him.
“If you brag about (younger players), all you do is tell agents about them, and agents tell them to leave school,” Brandt said.
Boyd said he’s not thinking about it.
“My main focus is live today, and hopefully the things later will come to me,” he said.
“It’s going to be a real tough decision for me,” he said of leaving Pitt after the 2015 season. “If I’m really projected to go in the first round, I might consider it. But I think I can’t leave here without making my mark.”
He said that includes producing even more difficult catches, helping Pitt win its final three games and someday securing that elusive championship.
“We got the right players and we got the right coaches,” he said, “and we have the good system to do what we’ve been saying we were going to do.
“I’m still waiting on that moment.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.