Jan. 28, 2018
By John Heisler
Miles Boykin is nothing if he’s not humble, low-key, politically correct and an absolute team player.
So there’s a sense that the junior University of Notre Dame football wide receiver remains a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight, even four weeks after his amazing, one-handed catch that essentially provided the margin for Irish victory in the Citrus Bowl.
Boykin, naturally, is quick to point out that he and quarterback Ian Book probably had practiced that looping, 25-yard shot to the near sideline dozens if not hundreds of times.
“We have one period in practice,” says Boykin, “where all we do is work on those back-shoulder throws.”
But he and Book had never executed that play in such dramatic fashion.
Not in a January 1 bowl game.
Not against the 17th-ranked team in the country in LSU.
Not when the Irish had their backs against the wall, trailing with a little more than a minute remaining.
And certainly not with Boykin stretching his entire 6-4 frame to make the grab-and then somehow outmaneuvering a pair of Tiger defenders to score for the 21-17 Irish win.
Even on a day when the competition included the two College Football Playoff games immediately following the Citrus Bowl, it might have been the most-viewed play of the bowl season.
ESPN SportsCenter’s own tweet with video of the play read, “ABSOLUTELY JUKED 2 DEFENDERS FOR THE NOTRE DAME WIN. #SCtop10.”
The 55-yard play proved so alluring that it seemed as if everybody was talking about it from about four o’clock on on that chilly Orlando afternoon when Book and Boykin did their thing-as Boykin quickly found out.
“I had over 300 texts after the game,” says Boykin matter of factly. “It took me a couple of days to go through all that. I’ve got like 2,000 followers on Instagram. I’m not sure about Twitter (he has 5,369 followers). But people were constantly hitting me up with social media.
“I heard from some people I hadn’t talked to in a couple of years-obviously some people I’d never talked to that somehow got my number.
“At first it was fun, and then after a while it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh, my phone’s blowing up every single day.'”
Boykin says it took four or five days for the craziness to calm down.
That same night he celebrated with his mother and brother who came to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl–and all the other players, coaches and staff–at the Irish victory party in a huge ballroom at the Notre Dame team hotel.
“Any time you’re around your teammates, it’s great. I love being around those guys,” he says.
Boykin figures he already has watched the game-winning play at least 100 times.
“It’s so funny because your older relatives send it to you as if you’ve never seen it before-they always send the video.”
It was almost as if people forgot that Boykin didn’t really need to see the play. He was the play.
Once Boykin returned home to Tinley Park, Illinois, the next day, another whole round of fun ensued.
“It was crazy in my hometown,” he says. “People would stop me when I was getting something to eat and they’d go, ‘You’re Miles.'”
Yet another round of connections happened in mid-January once Boykin returned to campus for the spring semester.
“There were a lot of random students coming up to me and thanking me. It was kind of funny. Professors knew me. It’s definitely been a humbling experience.
“It’s mostly calmed down now. My teammates still say something about it every now and then. They’ll give me a hard time when everybody else is lifting weights. They’ll say, ‘Oh, you don’t have to do it, Miles-you just made a big catch.'”
Boykin and Book didn’t quite save the free world-but to some Irish fans it just seemed that way.
“The whole experience has been kind of crazy, at least to me,” he says.
Boykin says he most enjoyed hearing from Riff Raff, a well-known rapper and artist.
“He tweeted at me and said that’s the kind of play NFL players make. He followed me so I followed him back. That was maybe my favorite thing that happened. It was kind of funny.”
The web site seccountry.com ran an entire print feature on LSU reaction to Boykin’s play, under the headline “LSU players shaking heads over Notre Dame’s remarkable winning play.”
Even Tiger running back Derrius Guice, who might have been in line to be the game’s MVP if LSU had won, saluted Boykin with his own tweet: “Hell of a catch … way to step up for your team! Much respect.”
Boykin finished the season with 12 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns. His 21.1-yards-per-catch figure led the team.
Ten days after the game, Boykin re-tweeted a tweet from the Notre Dame football department that featured video of the big play and the tagline, “In case you need a refresher on ‘The Catch,’ here ya go.”
Boykin says the biggest thing to come out of the Citrus Bowl was winning a 10th game for the Irish program.
“It’s about taking that momentum and building on it for our team. That’s huge for us. This is the first time since I’ve been here when our last game has been a win, and it was a big bowl win. It’s changed people’s demeanors completely.
“But I don’t even think about it on a personal basis.”
And that’s okay.
Boykin’s long list of new best friends is taking care of that for him.