Cana­dian suits up in AAF opener

Saska­toon line­man de­ter­mined to get back to the NFL

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - DAN BARNES

Saska­toon’s Brett Boyko, a six-foot-seven, 312-pound spec­i­men, has been a pro­fes­sional foot­ball player for four years.

On Satur­day night in San An­to­nio, Tex., the 26-year-old of­fen­sive line­man dou­bled the num­ber of reg­u­lar sea­son games he has dressed for as a pro.

From one to two.

“I feel like I’ve been put through the ringer a cou­ple times,” he said, while all around him San Diego Fleet team­mates, many of whom surely share the gist of his story, gath­ered them­selves af­ter a sea­son-open­ing 15-6 loss to the San An­to­nio Com­man­ders.

What sets him apart in the room, and this new league, is his birth­place. He was the only Cana­dian among the 86 play­ers who suited up for the first Al­liance of Amer­i­can Foot­ball tilt at the Alam­od­ome.

And be­fore he signed a three­year, non-guar­an­teed deal worth US$250,000 in early De­cem­ber, he came close to join­ing the B.C. Lions, who drafted him 14th over­all in 2015.

“I think I was. I re­ally do. But how this last year tran­spired with me — I tore my calf two days be­fore train­ing camp — so not hav­ing a full go at it one last time kind of made my de­ci­sion for me.

“Had I gone through camp and gave my all I re­ally feel I would have been on the Charg­ers, or maybe some­where else. Ob­vi­ously that didn’t hap­pen but I think that was the point for me, I gotta get back and do it again.”

He has chased the NFL dream since 2015, when he signed with Philadel­phia as an un­drafted free agent, af­ter go­ing through the NFL com­bine.

He was among the last cuts in Septem­ber 2015 and was on the prac­tice ros­ter but was re­leased in May 2016. He signed with the Charg­ers in June but was re­leased in Septem­ber and was days away from sign­ing with B.C. when the Charg­ers in­vited him back.

“I told my agent it was a done deal, I was go­ing to sign (with B.C.) that Tues­day. That Sun­day the Charg­ers called me. That’s how close it was.”

He re­joined the Charg­ers’ prac­tice squad on Oct. 4, 2016, signed a re­serve/fu­ture con­tract in Jan­uary 2017, was waived in Septem­ber, signed to the prac­tice squad a day later, pro­moted to the ac­tive ros­ter Dec. 19 and played in his first NFL reg­u­lar sea­son game, a win over the New York Jets on Dec. 24, was waived Dec. 29, and signed to a re­serve/fu­ture con­tract Jan. 1, 2018.

He was waived in Septem­ber af­ter reach­ing an in­jury set­tle­ment and waited for an­other call un­til Dec. 2, when he signed the AAF deal.

“Me and my agency, we had our mind set on the NFL, so I wasn’t re­ally aware of (the AAF) but ob­vi­ously jumped at the op­por­tu­nity. You get paid pretty well and it still gives you an op­por­tu­nity to go play in the NFL, so ab­so­lutely you can make it work.”

Through the en­tire NFL odyssey he has learned to go with the flow.

“Some­times it wears on me a bit. That’s the nice thing about this. It’s a three-year deal with the po­ten­tial to get back (to the NFL).

“So I kind of have a home for a lit­tle bit, which is nice.

“I’m in­cred­i­bly happy. You can never say you’re done de­vel­op­ing as a player. I know I have a ton of work to do and I’m ex­cited to be getting the op­por­tu­nity.”

Brett Boyko

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