Tamaine Boyd faced some emotional news last week.
His mother, Mildred Ares, was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer, a sarcoma in her leg. She was set to have surgery, leaving Boyd alone with an older sister.
“I was a little bit scared for her,” said the talented Union City running back/linebacker. “But I knew I had to be strong.”
Suddenly, the idea of playing in a high school football game took a backseat, even if it was an important game, an NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group V quarterfinal game against West Orange.
“But since this was the first game my mother was going to ever miss, my thought was that I was going to play harder for her,” Boyd said. “I was going to play with her in mind. I was going to play my heart out for her.”
Union City head football coach Wilber Valdez wasn’t sure if Boyd was going to be able to play.
“It was definitely a tough week,” Valdez said. “But the whole team rallied behind him. We tried to get him to focus on the game plan, but obviously, his mind was elsewhere and understandingly so. He was scared, no question, but you could tell that come game time, he was strictly business.”
Incredibly, when Boyd was a youngster, playing football in the Hoboken Recreation youth football program, he was first a guard.
“It was a lot of fun, blocking and all, but when I always watched the NFL, I always wanted to play running back,” Boyd said. “But there was a weight limit and I was too big to play running back. I was good as a guard.”
When Boyd entered Union City High School as a freshman, he was immediately inserted at fullback and at linebacker.
“I felt a whole lot better,” Boyd said. “I liked running the ball.”
However, as a sophomore, Boyd’s contributions were strictly on the defensive side of the ball.
“He had that perfect combination of size and speed,” Valdez said. “He started for us at linebacker. I thought he had the potential to become a Wing-T fullback.”
“I didn’t mind,” Boyd said. “I did my job and blocked.”
But midway through this season, something clicked.
“We noticed that he was pretty hard to put to the ground,” Valdez said. “He’s built like a rock. He has the speed. He could do a lot of things that a tailback can do.”
At 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, Boyd had the makeup of being a standout running back.
“He really is the perfect combination of size, speed and strength as a running back,” Valdez said. “He also has the ability to take it all the way.”
Throughout the season, Boyd had gained better than 1,300 yards and rushed for 23 touchdowns. The Soaring Eagles had a talented backfield with Jonathan Castellano and Nawell Rojas, but Boyd stepped to the forefront as the go-to back.
“We have speed all around and that’s a good thing to have,” Valdez said. “But Tamaine has speed and power.”
Last Friday night, with his mom on his mind, Boyd had the game of his life.
He rushed for 217 yards on just 17 carries and scored three touchdowns, leading the Soaring Eagles to a 32-21 victory.
For his efforts, Boyd has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
The Soaring Eagles will now face state-ranked power Montclair in the sectional semifinals this weekend. A win against Montclair will send Union City to the state championship round.
“I’m just trying to get my team to MetLife Stadium,” Boyd said. “I didn’t feel like I had that many yards. I was more concentrated on winning, but now, the yards feel pretty good.”
With his talents this season, Boyd has played himself into being a top-flight college prospect, along with teammates Steven Gonzalez and Daiquan Kelly.
“At first, I thought he would be a tweener,” said Valdez, mentioning that Boyd was a prospect between the Division I and I-AA schools. “The big schools always play numbers game and as a linebacker, he was a little short. But now, he’s matured into a tailback, a legitimate Division I tailback. That’s how they’re looking at him now.”
Luckily for Boyd – and unfortunate for Soaring Eagles opponents – he’s only a junior.
“I think Tamaine can be a running back or a fullback at the next level,” Valdez said. “He’s getting good interest. But after they watch the film and watch him run over people and then by people, he’ll get more. His stock is definitely going to rise.”
Boyd was asked if he believed he would watch himself become a premier running back.
“No, I never thought that,” Boyd said. “I always hoped it. I never imagined it. It’s turned out amazing.”
Now, does he get caught up in the attention he has been receiving?
“No, I can’t think of that,” Boyd said. “I’ll wait until the end of the season. Right now, I’m focusing on the next game. I’ll see where I go. If the offers come, that’s fine. I just have to keep my grades up and keep playing football.”
And also keep his No. 1 fan in mind.
“I always think of my mom,” Boyd said. “She’s always been there for me.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.