Cards’ new starting guard Taylor Boggs is the NFL’s feel-good holiday story
Boggs, the first lineman LeCharles Bentley trained, finally started his first game in Week 15Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Taylor Boggs has become one of the more shocking stories in the NFL, with the former walk-on at Division II Humboldt State overcoming injuries and obscurity to finally become an NFL starter at 29.
Boggs, who failed to make Humboldt's roster the first year he tried out, has been an offseason journeyman and a frequently-cut training camp participant who spent two years entirely out of the NFL but never gave up. He caught the eye of former NFL lineman LeCharles Bentley in 2011, when Bentley was considering launching what has become a successful business training and developing linemen. Boggs has continued to work with Bentley through knee surgeries and setbacks.
Boggs got his first start last week at right guard with injuries depleting Arizona's offensive line and performed well enough to retain the job. He had only seven NFL appearances before his start.
"It's a Christmas miracle, really," said Bentley, whose O-Line Performance training facility in Arizona has taken off since humble beginnings with Boggs. "It's crazy. Taylor was the first college player I ever had the opportunity to work with, and I was a young entrepreneur watching every penny you spend. And no agent wanted to sign this kid and no one knew who he was and he sent me some film out that spring of himself and I remember thinking, 'This kid can really play.'"
Bentley since has taken a vested interested in seeing Boggs's dream come true while knowing the odds were heavily stacked against him, routinely reaching out to NFL general managers to secure tryouts and workouts for Boggs. Bentley would go on to work with future NFL Pro Bowl guard Alex Boone, which helped his business take off, but began his journey with Boggs. With no agent willing to spend fees to get Boggs to Arizona to train, Bentley had a decision to make on whether to fund the endeavor himself after watching Boggs grow and improve at the small school.
"There was no one to pay his training fees, and here I am saying, 'I have this business I want to grow and you want people to believe in you,' " Bentley said. "So I said to my mother, 'If I bring this kid in I'm going to have to front it and take care of him.' And my mom said, 'You can never go wrong when you invest in people.' And I said, 'Mom, you're right.' So I made a leap of faith and me made a leap of faith with me. I was a former player but I had never really coached anyone like this before, and now here we both are six years later."
As expected, Boggs went undrafted in 2011, but got an invite to Jets camp. He tore his ACL that summer, was placed on IR and released in April 2012. He was essentially out of football for two years. Bentley recalls at one point in his recovery Boggs ate the exact same meals for 40 straight days in an attempt to decrease inflammation and maximize health. ("We laugh about it now," Bentley said. "We called it, 40 days and 40 nights.")
Once healed, Bentley politicked then-Bears general manager Phil Emery, who Bentley knew well, to look at Boggs, and Emery signed him in April of 2013, with Boggs making one appearance that season. He re-signed with the Bears on a one-year deal the following spring but was cut in August of 2014, then rotated on and off the practice squad and active roster that season, appearing in four games in a very limited role.
Boggs made the Lions out of camp in 2015 and appeared in two games before being released that October, and after making the rounds on the tryout circuit proved fruitless, he continued to work with Bentley in Scottsdale as that season ended.
"I made a phone call in Arizona to [general manager] Steve Keim," Bentley said, "and I told, him, 'Steve, I've got a guy, he's right around the corner. Literally, he will ride his bike to the facility. Please bring him in for a workout.'"
The Cardinals liked what they saw and signed Boggs to a minimum contract, but then ended up releasing him this September after he got hurt again. Arizona re-signed him Nov. 1, and with their pass protection sagging and veterans suffering injuries, Boggs worked his way up the depth chart. Now, he's starting and trying to make a strong enough impression to solidify himself in the league with his 30th birthday looming in February.
"My goal with Taylor was, if we can just get you vested [in the NFL Pension] and get what you can out of this business, we'll have made it," Bentley said. "And lo and behold, now here we are and he's an NFL starter now in his fifth accredited season and he's vested and he never gave up.
"This guy is such a unique person, and this journey, I would say 99 percent of people would have tapped out a long time ago. Every time it looked like this was never going to happen, he got out of that mindset and always believed it was going to happen ... It's a real testament to him. Some things were misaligned for him along the way, but it's a terrific story of overall perseverance."
With his $360,000 this season, Boggs has now amassed $1.5 million in career earnings.
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