GREEN BAY – Deep down, Tim Boyle always knew he could play. He just needed a reminder of his true potential.
After a topsy-turvy college career split between UConn and Eastern Kentucky, the Packers' undrafted rookie quarterback came to Green Bay last spring looking for one last chance to prove that to himself.
While the season didn't go according to plan for the Packers, it held special meaning to Boyle, who displayed NFL-caliber arm strength and uncommon moxie for a young QB in the pocket from the start of the offseason program.
A promising summer led to the Packers keeping Boyle as their third-string quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers and DeShone Kizer, a spot he held onto the entire season.
"I think I always knew I had it in me," Boyle said. But obviously making the 53-man roster and staying on the team the whole year, it kind of proves to me I've got what it takes."
Boyle didn't see any on-field action in the regular season, but the 24-year-old saw improvements in his game after spending an entire season as Rodgers' understudy.
With a locker adjoined to the two-time MVP's, Boyle knew he had a special opportunity to learn from the very best. He asked questions in meetings, listened in on Rodgers' weekly media scrums and took notes on his playstyle in practice.
At one point, after an injured Rodgers directed a second-half comeback in a 24-23 win over Chicago in the opener, Boyle went over to the Packers Pro Shop, purchased Rodgers' No. 12 jersey and wore it to meetings the following day.
More than any in-game heroics, however, Boyle learned the most from how Rodgers carried himself in the face of a season-long knee injury and the adversity of a 6-9-1 season.
Despite the Packers being out of playoff contention after a 24-17 loss to the Bears in Week 15, Rodgers proceeded to start the final two games of the season.
"His style of leadership, you can't be on the sideline leading the team," Boyle said. "You have to be in there, grinding away with your team. That's how you earn respect and that's the one thing I've learned. He was pretty banged up all year and didn't let it show. He's a trooper and that's my standard now."
A highly touted recruit out of high school, Boyle headed to UConn with high hopes but weathered several injuries and coaching changes during his three seasons at the school.
He had a chance for a fresh start during his one year at Eastern Kentucky, but it wasn't until Boyle got to Green Bay he began to build his confidence back. He threw two touchdowns in his preseason debut against Tennessee, including a 52-yard connection with Jake Kumerow in the fourth quarter.
His opportunities were limited during the season. Even when Rodgers missed practice due to his knee injury, it largely was Kizer taking the first-team snaps. Still, Boyle felt his time spent with Rodgers and Kizer helped sharpen his mental game.
Rodgers was an open book from the beginning and Boyle remains ever grateful of the time and attention the 14th-year veteran gave him, especially considering nothing in Rodgers' contract says he must shepherd his backups.
"I think mentally and physically my preparation has been 100-fold change," Boyle said. "Just being around Aaron, your game increases so rapidly just being around that good of a player. You feel like your accuracy increases, your arm strength increases because you want to keep up with Aaron."
Boyle planned to take a few weeks off before beginning his offseason training in Nashville, with the goal of pinpointing a few areas of his game to further develop in preparation for the start of April's offseason program.
Once he returns, Boyle wants to pick up where he left off and prove he can be an NFL quarterback.
"I think my game is elevated to the next level. I truly think I could say that and mean it," Boyle said. "I know that I'm going into the offseason on a strong note and hopefully this team can progress in the offseason and have a better year next year. But this year has been awesome for me. I'm extremely blessed to be in this situation."