Former NFL player teaches gym on Long Island

Former NFL player teaches gym on Long Island

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Visitors to afternoon gym class at Chaminade High School in Mineola, Long Island found no student slacking.

"Come on," P.E. teacher Stephen Boyd said. "Slam that ball in the wall."

When your instructor led the Detroit Lions in tackles four seasons in a row (and still looks like he could play middle linebacker at the professional level), it seems, you tend to try your hardest.

"And it's just baby waves," Boyd said, demonstrating how to undulate a couple of heavy ropes with his arms. "Just moving your hand from your hip up to your shoulder."

"He's just another member of the staff here," Chaminade president, Brother Thomas Cleary, said.

Cleary hired the first employee in school history to have made an NFL Pro Bowl as his J.V. football coach.

"He doesn't make a big deal about where he came from," Cleary said. "It's all about what he's here now to do for the young men who are here."

Boyd soon took over the varsity team and set to work learning how to mentor 15-year-old kids.

"I can be high-energy intense at times," he said.

"He may seem like he's kind of scary because he's big," senior free safety Owen Rogers said, "but he's also a great guy. Nothing to be scared of."

Senior wideout Brandon Slicklein initially disagreed. A year ago, Boyd cornered Brandon -- then a junior and not yet a football player -- and asked him to come out for the team.

"It's intimidating," Brandon said. "It's surprising. You'd never think it."

Just like you'd never think the grimacing NFL behemoth pictured in a Lions uniform not even 15 years ago would want to spend his days instructing teenagers about honor and discipline and pre-snap four-point progressions at a school where his starters routinely miss practice for community service.

"People say: 'Oh, they're so lucky to have you,'" Boyd said. "And I say: 'Well, I don't think you understand. I'm very fortunate to have them.'"

On any given autumn weekday, Boyd coaches, he teaches and he struggles to answer a lot of questions about the toughest of his 576 (per Pro-Football-Reference.com) career tackles.

"Jeeze," Boyd said of the slipperiest players he lined up against, "so many. I'm lucky I played with Barry Sanders and didn't have to tackle him."

Anecdotes like that one provide his players, his students and his boss with plenty to brag about.

"Everyone kind of envies that we get to play for an all-pro linebacker," Rogers said.

"Oh," Cleary said, laughing, "it's great to be able to say that."

"It's awesome," Slicklein said.

And, so far, Boyd's backed up the swaggering he personally shuns, with a one-loss season in 2013 and a league championship in 2012.

"That was a great thing," he said. "More importantly, my wife was seven months pregnant when that happened and I have a beautiful daughter now and I have a great wife and life just keeps getting better."

Stephen Boyd the new father, Stephen Boyd the learning teacher, Stephen Boyd the humble man: all now superior to Stephen Boyd the former all-pro.

"Alright. Here we go," he said to his charges in P.E. class, Tuesday. "On the whistle. One, two, three."

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