ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — Tyler Boyles accomplishment of a dream resonated well beyond himself.
“It’s, like, the NFL,” Boyles’s high school coach, Randy Vanderhoof, said in a tone overjoyed, awed and a little reverential, carefully enunciating each of those famous letters, days after Boyles started work for the Indianapolis Colts as an assistant to head coach Frank Reich.
“You just thought, if this guy ever got into coaching, it’s hard telling what he’d be able to do,” Vanderhoof continued, laughing, “but I didn’t think about the NFL. I was thinking more like college.”
College is where Boyles was before he made the jump from offensive quality control coach at Middle Tennessee State to the sport’s highest tier.
The 2009 Raceland graduate isn’t striving for a certain position, he said, but instead is using his eyes, ears and mind to find out how high his ladder goes.
“My number-one goal before anything was to get to this level,” Boyles said, “so now that I’m here, it’s just to try to take in as much information as I can, learn as much as I can, and see where that takes me. I don’t know about a specific position, but just to be able to be here and be in this environment and be able to learn under some of the best in the game, it’s a great opportunity and I’m really, really blessed to be in this position.”
Boyles is still grasping his specific job duties, but they involve helping Reich stay on top of every football-related department in the Colts organization, he said.
Reich piqued Boyles’s interest well before he got to Indianapolis. As the Eagles’ offensive coordinator in 2017, Reich was widely credited with preparing Nick Foles to take over as quarterback when Carson Wentz went down to a season-ending injury late in the year. Instead of derailing Philadelphia’s Super Bowl hopes, Foles was named the MVP of football’s biggest game.
And Reich had to do it again this past season when stud quarterback Andrew Luck retired in late August, mere weeks before the season started. Jacoby Brissett was the beneficiary.
“Everybody respects Jacoby, and he did a really good job from a preparation standpoint,” Boyles said, “and I think that speaks volumes of coach Reich and what he was able to do.”
Boyles will intently observe that relationship because of his own playing background. He quarterbacked Raceland’s Air Raid offense under Vanderhoof to a 12-1 season as a senior in 2008, which at the time was the best in program history.
Boyles threw for more than 3,000 yards in his career, which was due to more than arm talent.
“He always understood things,” Vanderhoof said. “No question, it’s a cliche, but he was more than another coach out on the field with his leadership qualities and just the way he understood stuff. When we’d study film, he was on just another level.”
Boyles has also been professionally associated with the father of the Air Raid, Tony Franklin.
“I’ve worked with the quarterback position group most of my time, when I was in college, so that’s kinda what I know best and what I pride myself in,” Boyles said. “On top of that, being in this position, I’ll be able to be exposed to a lot of different things. I’m looking forward to that as well, to learn some other aspects of the game and everything that goes on outside the game, as far as what it’s like to be part of an NFL organization.”
Perhaps the greatest significance of Boyles’s new job locally is that he joins a fellow northeastern Kentuckian on the Indianapolis staff. Jason Michael, a Lawrence County alumnus, coaches the Colts’ tight ends.
Michael also has Raceland roots: his father, Eddie, coached the Rams in 1981 at the same time as Boyles’s father, Chuck, attended the school, Boyles said.
“It was kind of a crazy connection there,” Boyles said.
The idea that two northeastern Kentucky natives might have worked on the same professional staff wasn’t so far-fetched when the semi-pro Ironton Tanks were beating the likes of the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants in 1930, according to the Professional Football Researchers Association, or before the Portsmouth Spartans morphed into the Detroit Lions in 1934.
Now, though, considering the NFL has grown into an international television ratings behemoth and all of its 32 teams reside in major markets, having two locals coaching the same team registers as positively remarkable.
“That was pretty special too,” Boyles said. “Jason and I have had a couple conversations, just talking about all the familiar names from back home, from Louisa, from Raceland. There’s a lot of crossover there from a few different people. It was pretty cool to be able to walk in the building and have that type of person that understands what it’s like to be from northeastern Kentucky.”
Boyles hopes a result of his career is that reaching the NFL becomes less ground-breaking for future area players and coaches.
“I take a lot of pride in being from Raceland and being from Kentucky, being from that area,” he said. “It’s really special, and i just hope it maybe paves the way for other people to be able to do the same thing.”
A Colts spokesman said Michael was unavailable for comment and did not respond to a request for comment from Reich.
Boyles, 29, is preparing for more than just a professional change. He and his wife, Bethany, are expecting their first child in April. They have chosen not to find out the baby’s gender in advance, in keeping with tradition on Bethany’s side of the family.
“Ooh man, it’s been a whirlwind of a couple weeks,” Boyles said, chuckling, “but I tell you what, God’s been really good to me. He opened up this door for me, and that’s the one thing my wife and I talked about when this opportunity came about. We weren’t for sure of it yet; one thing we prayed about was, if this wasn’t the right opportunity, to close that door for us, but after a week or two, that door was wide, wide open.
“We’re very blessed to be in this position. We’ve got a lot going on, but it’s gonna be a good ride. We’re excited.”