GREEN BAY – Tim Boyle has had a football in his throwing hand for the better part of the last 18 years. It's been that way since a youth coach first noticed a kid whose arm was just a bit stronger than the rest.
It's an arm that helped guide Xavier (Conn.) High School to its third consecutive state championship in 2012 and paved the way to a college playing career that concluded last fall at Eastern Kentucky University.
There have been highs and there have been lows, but the journey has been worth the reward for Boyle, who was one of 14 college free agents to sign with the Packers on Friday.
At 6-foot-4, 233 pounds, Boyle has the look and feel of an NFL quarterback. Although he only started one full season, Boyle gained the attention of scouts after running a 4.75-second time in the 40 with a 9-9 broad jump at EKU's pro day on March 23.
"It's truly a dream come true," Boyle said. "I've been thinking about this moment pretty much the whole time I've been playing football. It's been a long journey. A lot of ups and downs, but I'm finally here and it's up to me now to make the most out of my opportunity."
The native of Middlefield, Conn., enjoyed a prolific high-school career, throwing for nearly 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns during his senior year at Xavier.
Named the Connecticut High School Coaches' Association Player of the Year in 2012, Boyle opted to stay home and play at the University of Connecticut after initially committing to Boston College.
Things started well for Boyle, who became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for the Huskies since 2003. However, a myriad of injuries, setbacks and coaching changes stymied his growth and saw Boyle start only a handful of games during his sophomore and junior campaigns.
"I always told myself when I was at UConn that if I continue to do the right thing, good things will happen," Boyle said. "I told myself, 'Wait it out. Your time is going to come.' There just came a point where I looked in the mirror, talked to my family and wanted a fresh start at a new school."
After announcing his intention to transfer, Boyle reached out to his first quarterback coach at UConn, Shane Day, now the tight ends coach of the Miami Dolphins. It was through Day that Boyle was introduced to Eastern Kentucky football coach Mark Elder.
A group of Packers draft picks took their 2018 headshots at Lambeau Field. Photos by Ryan Hartwig, packers.com
Richmond, Ky., proved to be the change in scenery Boyle desperately needed. The coaching staff entrusted the offense to its senior transfer last fall and told him to pay no mind to the rear-view mirror.
For the first time since high school, Boyle didn't have to worry about rep counts or depth charts. Named a captain soon after stepping on campus, Boyle was solely focused on football.
He completed 201-of-327 passes for 2,134 and 11 touchdowns in 11 starts. He became the first Eastern Kentucky quarterback to eclipse the 300-yard mark in his first game as a Colonel, completing 63 percent of his passes (29-of-46) for 320 yards and two touchdowns at Western Kentucky on Sept. 2.
"I called Coach Elder and thanked him for giving me that opportunity (after signing with the Packers)," Boyle said. "Without that, I wouldn't be here right now. No doubt. (He gave me) a chance to go out there and play ball, and have the keys and not have to look over my shoulder. To lead a team and know you're the starting quarterback and a captain meant a lot to me."
The Packers took a liking to Boyle early in the pre-draft process, bringing in the 23-year-old quarterback for his lone visit last month. Boyle was honored by the gesture, fully aware the team only had 30 slots available to host prospects.
Boyle was impressed by the "first-class" way the organization was run and hoped to find his way back to Green Bay either during or after the draft.
It turned out to be the latter option. For hours, he watched the draft anxiously from New Haven with his agent. Once the Packers called, Boyle rounded up his family and relayed the good news.
"There was a point in time I just put my phone down and enjoyed my family, but it was going pretty crazy," Boyle said. "A lot of people reaching out."
Over the past week, Boyle has been in constant contact with close friend and former UConn cornerback Byron Jones, a first-round pick for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. Former Huskie teammates Geremy Davis and Andrew Adams also have been generous in helping prepare Boyle for life in the NFL.
After taking a morning flight into Green Bay, Boyle spent Thursday getting acclimated to his new surroundings. This weekend is an introduction, but next week Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers' veterans will be back in the building.
Getting to learn from a two-time NFL MVP is an opportunity Boyle has always coveted. Now, after a five-year college odyssey, it's all within his grasp.
"All that experience is going to be huge for me," Boyle said. "Hopefully, they can take me under their wing and I can learn from them. Just shut my mouth and keep my eyes open and understand my role, but also take ownership of my game. It's a huge blessing being able to learn from all of those guys."