Yes, he was Tyrod Taylor's go-to receiver at Virginia Tech. Yes, he broke out as a starter with the Green Bay Packers only two years ago.
But, no, Jarrett Boykin will not dwell on the past.
"You grow as an individual over time," Boykin said Monday. "I just know I’m going to be coming in with that last-shot mentality. It’s all or nothing for me. Working hard. Fighting for it. Just trying to get that dog back — bring the dog out.”
He picked a good spot. Beyond Sammy Watkins, nothing is guaranteed at wide receiver on the Buffalo Bills' roster.
Chris Hogan, who played with torn ligaments in his wrist, will be a restricted free agent. Robert Woods, who played with a torn groin, has one year left on his rookie contract. So with a flurry of underrated veteran signings — Greg Salas, Greg Little and Boykin — management made it clear it'll exhaust all options at the position. This trio has 14 combined years of NFL experience. And Boykin may be the most intriguing of the lot, having starred at Virginia Tech with Taylor and excelled in 2013 with the Packers despite constant change at quarterback.
Catching passes from four different quarterbacks that season Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, he had 49 receptions for 681 yards and three touchdowns.
Green Bay drafted three receivers the next spring, relegating Boykin to special teams in 2014 and then he signed with Carolina. Despite a strong summer with the Panthers, including a strong game against Buffalo's Ronald Darby in the preseason, Boykin was cut and didn't play a snap the entire 2015 season. He trained. And trained. And worked out for New England, the New York Jets and Tennessee before finally getting another chance in Buffalo.
"I always tell people," Boykin said, "I went from four minutes away from playing for a Super Bowl last year against Seattle to not even playing a snap this year. So it just lets you know to never take anything for granted. And once it’s taken from you, you miss it a whole lot more.”
His game is physicality.
At 6 foot 2, 218 pounds, he could give Taylor an option underneath defenses worried about covering Watkins deep. In Taylor's final season with the Hokies, 2010, Boykin had 53 catches for 847 yards and six scores. While lacking speed — the reason Boykin wasn't drafted was a 4.74 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine — Boykin has massive 10 1/4-inch hands. At Virginia Tech, he wore size 3XL and 4XL gloves. He cracked the Packers roster as an undrafted free agent after plucking nearly everything thrown his way through OTA's, minicamp and training camp.
Now, he feels like that UDFA all over again: clawing, scratching and, he hopes, surviving. When he did get his shot before on Sundays, Boykin excelled in heavy traffic over the middle of the field. He's a smart route runner who can find holes in zones and box out smaller corners.
“That year, it was just about the confidence I had," Boykin said. "Everybody believed in me and the opportunities were definitely there week in and week out."
Once the Bills offered a futures contract, Boykin took it and cancelled a scheduled workout with Chicago.
He knows it certainly helps to have a quarterback "in my corner." They've kept in touch since college and caught up again shortly after Boykin signed. Maybe this duo is able to dust off the cobwebs and find their old ACC magic. Boykin also knows that was five-plus years ago and he's facing tough odds.
“I know what’s in front of me," Boykin said. "I know what I have to do. I’m ready for the challenge.
"Once you get into that groove, you feel like there’s not anything you can’t do. It’s about working hard and being physical."
On this run-first, run-often offense, such a mind-set helps. Whoever plays wideout in Greg Roman's scheme will be rolling up their sleeves plenty. Buffalo ran the ball 509 times last season, second-most in the NFL.
Sure, Boykin has thought after life after football. How could he not? Doors were shut again and again last year.
This might be his last shot.
"If you’re not confident in yourself, who else is going to be confident in you?" Boykin said. "You can never lose self-confidence. If you keep believing in yourself, I feel like no one can tell you ‘no.’ No one can stop you. That’s what keeps everybody driving—people that doubt you, the ones who say you’re not up to this level, you can’t do this or someone’s better than you."