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Making the Most of a Second Chance
Editorial Note: This story served as the Flames Illustrated football game day program senior feature story for Liberty's home game against Brevard on Nov. 16. Boyd finished his career with 28 starts and was part of Liberty's offensive line that helped the Flames rush for a program record 36 touchdowns in 2013.
"When I saw my leg and it was facing the wrong way – yeah, I had a pretty good idea that my season was over."
More than a year later, a tongue-in-cheek Malcolm Boyd still grimaced slightly as he recalled the injury that so abruptly ended what was supposed to be his final year on the field.
The offensive lineman, then a Big South All-Conference first team, VaSID All-State second team and Associated Press All-America third team member, had been a contributor on the field from his first season with the Flames. Accordingly, he expected to wrap up his impressive career in a predictably climactic fashion.
Those plans – as well as Boyd's leg – went sideways when he suffered a gruesome tibia and fibula break in the Flames' second game of the 2012 season, against Norfolk State.
It's every elite athlete's worst nightmare, but Boyd showed poise and remarkable perspective in the midst of it all.
"The injury was tough at first," he admitted readily, "but I knew it was part of God's plan – that he had something big coming up for me."
Though Boyd harbored initial doubts that he would play again at all, the NCAA granted him a medical hardship waiver. From that point forward, the offensive lineman dedicated himself to the recovery process. Whatever big thing it was that God had for the lineman, he was determined to embrace it and the opportunity to play one more season in a Liberty uniform.
His journey was – and still is – not without frustrations.
The 6-3, 300-pound Boyd explained that because of his size, his bone simply took longer to heal than that of the average person.
"They pretty much had to teach me to walk all over again," he stated.
"The summer was the major time that he had to repair himself, as we couldn't allow him to do anything in the spring or spring practice, and he stayed away from weightlifting until [late spring]," offensive line coach Dennis Wagner relayed. "It really was like starting over for him. He was basically out until we started this fall camp. He hadn't touched a weight or done any football-related things since way back in September, so it was a long recovery process."
Wagner, nodding thoughtfully, reiterated, "It's still a process."
"To his credit, Malcolm has worked incredibly hard to put himself back in a position to play. It was a very serious injury, and his work ethic to get back to where he is at today as opposed to even three weeks ago is wonderful. He's continually getting better and has certainly made good decisions in how he's chosen to work to come back rather than giving up – and he could have very easily just given up!"
The injury has somewhat limited Boyd's playing time and altered his style of play – and he knew coming into the season that it would. But where others might merely get discouraged, Boyd remained relentlessly sure of God's purpose.
Offensive line, Boyd explained, is not a glory position to begin with. He instead stressed the responsibility of a good lineman to better his teammates and keep the offense unified as a unit – two responsibilities Boyd found to have less to do with his time on the field and more with leadership and influence.
"It was tough at first to go out there [last season] and watch these guys work together and not be a part of that," he remembered. "But my role shifted and I just tried to be a motivator and encourager on the sideline – to just do all I could at the time."
The value of his input did not go unnoticed. Wagner praised such leadership.
"Malcolm's a leader on our team because of all the experience that he has," the coach stated. "The guys look up to him, knowing that he's been there before."
Boyd's teammates responded by voting him a team captain this year.
"Becoming a captain was such an honor," Boyd beamed. "To be known as a leader and all that comes with that is truly a blessing."
And though he has worked his way back to a starting spot on the line, the redshirt senior has intentionally retained the perspective he gained from his time on the sideline.
"It all brought me closer to my walk with the Lord," Boyd said of his injury, recovery and role shift. "I knew at the point [of the injury] that there was a bigger plan. I was focused on only one thing at the time – football – and when I broke my leg it refocused me on everything else and brought me closer to God."
"This season has been motivated, for me, by not taking my second opportunity or anything else for granted, knowing that it can be taken away from me at any moment now."
Ryley Rush is a Liberty University junior and is a freelance writer for Liberty Athletics