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Bengals’ Tyler Boyd talks overcoming ‘tough’ surroundings


Before a showdown with the Chiefs for a spot in Super Bowl LVI, Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd catches up with Post columnist Steve Serby for some Q&A. 

Q: What makes Joe Burrow Joe Burrow? 

A: His confidence. How he prepares each week. It’s never a week that you see a flaw, or see him down, or feel like he’s off his game. He’s the same person week in, week out, and I think that’s the most important thing at that quarterback position that you have to see for guys to continue to rally. 

Q: He seems to love big games. 

A: Yes. A lot of people underestimate him. He looks at that like, “There’s no guy better than me, I’m the best, I’m him.” For him to go out there and fulfill that and do it, it turned heads. If you talk about it, then you gotta back it up, and he does

Q: You believe he’s the best quarterback in the game. 

A: Right now, today, yes. 

Q: Describe Burrow in the huddle. 

A: Very poised. I say this all the time, it’s so hard to kind of diagnose him as a person because he’s the same guy off the field, too. Nothing fazes him, nothing worries him, he doesn’t go into panic mode or nothing. 

Tyler Boyd
Tyler Boyd and the Bengals face the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
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Q: Does he ever crack a joke in the huddle? 

A: No. … Straight, straight business. Straight, straight, straight war mentality. But it’s not coming in there super, like, aggressive or too soft. He’s like right in between to where he’s confident, poised, chill and just being a leader. 

Q: Thoughts on Patrick Mahomes’ high ankle sprain

A: I hope he plays, that’s all I can say. I hope he plays so that if he doesn’t, then that’s their excuse. Him and Joe are the two best quarterbacks in the league. 

Q: Burrow is 3-0 against Mahomes. 

A: Joe just handles pressure and game management the best in the league. 

Q: From your Instagram: “I made it to the top, but I’m really from the bottom.” 

A: (Laugh) I like that one. Just come from where I came from, and how I had to dig myself out of holes, because I was raised by a single parent, she got remarried, my father was in jail. I went to the smallest classification of a high school team that you could be a part of [in Clairton, Pa.]. Graduated with 30 people, nobody believed in me despite all the accolades and everything I accomplished, just never got the respect and never felt that I was working my way to the top. Now that we’re at the top as a team and me as a person, there ya go. 

Q: Do you have a relationship with your father? 

A: Yes, now. I think he’s been out for 2-3 years. So yeah, we started to regain our relationship. 

Q: How much did you miss that relationship, and why was he in jail? 

A: He was involved with street stuff. It’s always tough to grow up without a father. But fortunately, I had opportunity to be raised by another father figure. My mom remarried when I was in about seventh grade, around there all the way until my 11th grade, so I still kind of got that backbone support. 

Q: Tell me about Clairton. 

A: It’s very small. It’s nothing positive coming out of Clairton, only guns and violence and football usually. Nobody ever made it in any other sports other than football. We had a few people make it to college, but no one really got to the league but me. It’s just tough living, man, it’s nothing but violence and gun crime. It’s kind of no other positive way of making it out other than football. 

Tyler Boyd makes a catch during the Bengals' win over the Bills in the AFC divisional round on Jan. 22.
Tyler Boyd makes a catch during the Bengals’ win over the Bills in the AFC divisional round on Jan. 22.

Q: What was the worst thing you saw there? 

A: I seen a lot of tough things … all the wrong things that can make a person fall into the wrong footsteps. 

Q: Did you lose anyone close to you? 

A: Yes. … My best friend at the time, he ended up getting killed in street stuff a couple of years once I got into the league. 

Q: How long had you known him? 

A: My whole life. He was my best friend growing up. 

Q: Do you still honor him today? 

A: Yes, I got a chain with his picture made in it. I still wear it all the time. 

Q: Tell me about your house fire. 

A: I was in 12th grade, and just got done with football. I played basketball, and during my basketball game, I had to get called off the court and being told that my house caught on fire during the basketball game. I got myself together, went to the house and sure enough we had to get all of our stuff out. It was an electrical fire and we were able to save a majority of our stuff. And we got a lot of help from the whole city, they all supported me, had my back, we kind of had a GoFundMe — at that time it was something else that people were able to contribute to. 

Q: Were you able to move back into the house? 

A: No, we moved into a smaller apartment. 

Q: How did that experience affect you? 

A: It kind of hurt. First of all, before that happened during the season, I had got my house broken into, got robbed, all of our stuff gone, all the merchandise, and then after the season was over, we had the electrical fire. So just all that adversity, man, it hurt so much, like what’s next? What can I do to get through this? That’s kind of the whole defining point of starting from the bottom. You just stay the course, and good things will happen. 

Q: You must be proud of yourself, am I right? 

A: Yes, very. 

Q: Everybody has adversity in their life, but you seem to have had more than your fair share. 

A: Yes, I think I’ve seen almost everything you can see growing up out of a poverty city. 

Q: Describe your mom. 

A: She was probably my backbone, she was probably the one that I most did it for who I really looked up to ’cause she was working triple jobs, double jobs and stuff to stay afloat, make sure we had what we had to at least have a roof over our head. She just did so much extra stuff just to support us. … That’s why it was so important for me to try to make it out the right way and not falling into the direction with drugs and things like that, the route that my father had took. So I just wanted to be different and become someone that I can be, help my mom so she didn’t struggle any more. 

Tyler Boyd
Tyler Boyd believes he’s the best slot receiver in the NFL.
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Q: How long was your father in prison? 

A: I think about 8-10. 

Q: You were how old when he first went? 

A: I think I was still in middle school. At the time it kind of didn’t affect my life as much because my mom was still a single parent at that time and he wasn’t in the household. He was somebody that I could still hit up and ask for things but once that was gone, then I kind of didn’t have no father-figure outlet until my stepfather came in the picture. 

Q: When was that? 

A: I met him in ’03, ’cause he coached me in Little League. They got married when I was seventh, eighth grade, somewhere around there. 

Q: Describe your style as a receiver. 

A: I would say very versatile, agile, quick, elusive, because I work a lot in the slot and I gotta understand coverages and understand where I need to be at when Joey [QB Joe Burrow]’s ready to throw it into zone coverages and things like that. 

Q: Describe receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s style. 

A: I would say kind of the same exact thing as me, including his ability to break tackles. Once he catches the ball, his catch after the run is so dangerous that I think that’s what makes him so elite. 

Q: Tee Higgins’ style. 

A: I look at him kind of more like our Megatron, a guy that’s gonna go up and catch the ball over any guy, make that down-the-field deep threat. 

Q: Who’s the best slot receiver in the NFL? 

A: Uh, me. For sure. 

Q: What makes you the best slot receiver in the NFL? 

A: I think my size, and like I said my ability to diagnose pre- and post-snap coverages and knowing where I need to be, and just my physicality. I’m not a smaller guy … there’s smaller guys in there normally, so I think I got the best of both worlds. 

Q: From your Instagram: “I don’t meet your standards I exceed your standards.” 

A: So basically, people view us as the underdog and still underestimate us and don’t think that we meet the standard of being the best team, and we believe that we are. 

Q: Does that apply to you also? 

A: Yes, that was just something that applies to me ’cause all my life I’ve been underestimated and never got the respect all through high school into college, so I always feel like I exceed anybody’s expectations or standards that they try to put on me. 

Q: Why do you think you were underrated? 

A: In high school, I went to a small school, I won 54 games, lost one, won four state championships, nobody still counted me in. Went to college, nobody thought I was gonna be how I would be at Pitt. When I got here, still kind of the same thing, you still get overlooked when you don’t win. 

Q: What is the criticism you thought was most unfair? 

A: For me, since I play so much in the slot, I get a lot of the criticism that I couldn’t play outside. But then, when I got the back-to-back thousand-yard seasons, I was playing outside. Now I still always play with that chip on my shoulder ’cause at the end of the day, once you amount to something, somebody’s gonna say you can’t do this or that. 

Q: Why does Eli Apple seem to be a lightning rod

A: I guess because of the things that you’ve seen on Twitter. He’s one of them guys who when you talk stuff, he’s gonna do the same thing (chuckle). 

Q: What is your favorite memory about playing with James Conner with the Pitt Panthers? 

A: Just his story, man, and just seeing him evolve in his circumstances. He was one of them guys too that was underrated, came into Pitt with me, nobody believed in him, he was really nobody. That senior guy he blew his knee out the very first game of the year, and then had cancer. As soon as he got back healthy, he ended up being diagnosed with cancer. That was my breaking point, that was when I really felt for him, when it really kind of was like man, let’s can’t take things for granted, you never know how this world works. Him overcoming that, man, he’s definitely a role model in my life. 

Q: What was it like for you being an eyewitness to his cancer battle? 

A: It was tough. … Just seeing him in a bed losing his hair, I kind of went through that at a younger age as well. I had a cousin, Demarcus Payne, he was diagnosed with leukemia, just seeing him in the same exact form was kind of hard for me to go to a hospital and look at James because my cousin passed away, and I didn’t want to see another person that I loved and I looked at as family and my brother to follow that same thing. 

Q: What makes Aaron Donald Aaron Donald? 

A: His work ethic, man. He wasn’t built like how he was built in college. He always, always was on point with his craft. 

Q: Describe your on-field mentality. 

A: I kind of want to go out there and do whatever I can to win. 

Q: Boyhood idol? 

A: I grew up playing running back. I was bigger than all of my peers at the time, so I kind of looked up to Reggie Bush and LaDainian Tomlinson. 

Q: You played baseball your senior year of high school. 

A: We were 63-0 in football, my senior year at the baseball team, we were 0-63. We were getting so much crap in the news about how weak we were at baseball and how dominant we were at football. I didn’t take that lightly because I feel like I can go make change. I wanted to go and prove people wrong again. My first game I ever played, I didn’t have no batting practice, no fielding practice, and my first at-bat I almost smacked a home run, hit an inside-the-parker, and we won that game. I played a few more games, and every game me and my boys played, we won. 

Q: What position did you play? 

A: Shortstop. 

Q: Any baseball idols? 

A: Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were my two at the time growing up. 

Q: Did you watch Steelers practices when you were at Pitt? 

A: Yes. It was great, it kind of gave us the edge because we got to stay after our practice and watch them practice and look and see how to play the game as a pro. I used to talk to [Mike] Tomlin and AB [Antonio Brown] was over there and I would ask questions. 

Tyler Boyd
Tyler Boyd was a standout at Pitt, where he played with James Conner and Aaron Donald.
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Q: Jets TE C.J. Uzomah was a former Bengals teammate. 

A: He’s a real great guy, great personality. He’s one of the probably most genuine guys you’ll be around. He never was a moody guy, and that’s what I loved about him. He was a guy who wound crack jokes and be joyful and bring great camaraderie. 

Q: Tell me about your 9-year-old daughter Taylen. 

A: She’s very unique. She’s very crafty. She kind of reminds me of myself because she’s very determined. She always wanted to go swimming, and wanted to go swimming every single day. She was 5 at the time, and she’s swimming in 12 feet of water. And then it went on to dancing. She’s doing cheer competition now, did a little ballet. Now she’s into cosmetology, doing hair, and she’s got her little dummy doll, and she’s really doing hair, and be doing it pretty good (laugh)! 

Q: What was it like having a daughter so young? 

A: Very hard, because I don’t reality know what I’m gonna be, I’m still growing up. I don’t have any idea of how to be a father, because I’m still trying to figure out myself, I’m still trying to make it out for my family. It was probably the hardest part of my life, but I stuck to it, and I faced adversity several times, and I felt like I did the best that I could, and it shows. 

Q: Three dinner guests? 

A: Michael Jackson, [Michael] Jordan, and Demarcus. 

Q: Favorite movie? 

A: The Fridays. 

Tyler Boyd hauls in a touchdown reception during the Bengals' win over the Buccaneers on Dec. 18.
Tyler Boyd hauls in a touchdown reception during the Bengals’ win over the Buccaneers on Dec. 18.
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Q: Favorite actors? 

A: Will Smith and Denzel [Washington]. 

Q: Favorite meal? 

A: Now it would be steak and lobster, but growing up I was a big spaghetti and garlic bread eater. 

Q: What drives you? 

A: We’re kind of over the outside noise with people still underestimating us, but that thing kind of adds fuel to the fire, but I been here the longest, and this team, this whole organization deserves a Super Bowl win, so I just do it for the guys. 

Q: What did you learn about the Chiefs crowd and Arrowhead Stadium in last year’s 2021 AFC Championship game? 

A: Other than then trying to act like the speakers blew when we won the championship game so we couldn’t really hear the commentators talking after we won the championship. The whole stadium couldn’t hear the person on the stage presenting us the win and the trophy. I just felt like that was real weak of them. 

Q: You guys aren’t fazed by the crowd. 

A: Nah, we done been there, done that. 

Q: How painful was it walking off the field after losing last year’s Super Bowl to the Rams? 

A: I think that’s probably the most devastating day of the year for me. Everything that you work for and you prepare for and you talk about, and actually get to that stage, and you don’t fulfill that destiny, it stings, it hurts, you know? And that’s just something that me and no other guy wants to feel again.


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