A Parent's Life - Part I

by - Senior Writer -
The trophy room at the Boyds' home.

SENECA – Walk through the doors of Tim and Carla Boyd’s home, and the love and pride they have for their two sons is immediately apparent. Their love and pride for Clemson University is also proudly on display.

Straight ahead on the wall as you walk in are hand-drawn portraits of eldest son Tajh – the starting quarterback at Clemson – and youngest son T.J., who leaves this week to begin a career in the Navy.

There is a huge stuffed Tiger, with cub, that sits in front of the fireplace and different items of Clemson memorabilia decorate the living room. Walk to the right and into the kitchen area, and a huge poster of Tajh covers one refrigerator door, complete with offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ admonition that his offense will get 80 snaps a game.

In the dining room, two huge display cases showcase a lifetime of achievement for Tajh and T.J. – everything from baby pictures, Little League pictures, youth football and high school pictures to newspaper articles, game programs, jerseys and trophies.

The mementos and photos show the bright side of being the parent of a high-profile athlete, including a picture of a smiling Carla in a picture with Tajh at the U.S. Army All-American Game.

But there is also the side the public doesn’t see – the side where parents are constantly having to defend their children against attacks from all sides, especially in the instant information age of ESPN, Twitter, Facebook and text messaging.

The life as a parent of an athlete like Tajh is a two-edged sword, complete with all of the highs and lows that collegiate athletics can muster, but it’s a life that Carla and Tim graciously accept.

“It really is unique, and people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes,” Carla told TigerNet this past week. “It is like a circus out there sometimes. There are a lot of opinions out there. When it comes to college football, people are very opinionated. When Clemson was winning last year, I had to constantly keep deleting my text messages because my phone would fill up. But when Clemson started that slump, I had to deactivate my Facebook because of people contacting me and trying to figure out what was going on inside the Clemson program.”

The Boyd’s lived an almost normal life right up until the point where Tajh committed to play at West Virginia, but later backed off that commitment after a change in offensive philosophy.

Carla says that is when she realized things were going to be different for her family.

“Things turned very sour,” she says of the aftermath of the de-committal. “West Virginia fans started sending hate mail, and people were making up bogus websites with Tajh’s father’s name on them. They would purposely misspell words on them to make him look foolish. It was idiotic stuff just to get West Virginia fans riled up. But I just sat back and watched and waited, like a mom usually does. I never got into the message boards, the rumors or predictions. I still had to be a wife and mother.”

Once Tajh’s recruitment opened back up, things began to heat up even more.

“It was pretty wild,” she said. “We got calls and we got visits, and then you turn around and find out that those coaches were fired the next week. We even had a college coach come into our house and turn on the television and turn the volume up. Even he got fired. We had quite a few show up, selling their program, that wound up getting fired.”

As the college coaches made a revolving door out of her front door, she used a mother’s intuition in trying to divine what coach – and what school – would be best for her son. That intuition didn’t always line up with wins and losses.

“You know, one coach that really touched me was Coach Jags [former Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski] from Boston College,” she said. “He was very down to earth, and when we went on a visit he turned off the television and sat down with us. When he left the program [at the end of the 2008 season] and after the Virginia coach got fired, I got confused. I liked Tennessee because I liked Coach [Phillip] Fulmer. Tennessee was an environment that was similar to Clemson.”

She says that the entire process became overwhelming, and one day all of the stress and anxiety burst forth in a torrent of frustration and tears.

“We had gotten to the point where we were being swayed, left, right, north and south by all of these different schools,” she said. “I was in the shower, and I just started crying. Everything had spiraled out of control, and I didn’t know what advice to give him [Tajh] anymore. I knew it was heavy on his mind. I just had all these tears streaming down my face, and when I stepped out of the shower I stopped crying. I went and got Tajh, and I told him, ‘Go wherever your heart leads you to.’ I didn’t know then where that would be.”

Then a late-comer into Boyd’s recruitment walked through the door in the person of Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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“Clemson came in late during his recruitment, but Coach Swinney, I just loved his spirit,” she said. “He left a good vibe for me when he visited. After that happened, I never once in my mind doubted that Clemson was the place for Tajh. But I still didn’t know, right up until he announced, where he was going to go. I think T.J. knew, but Mr. Boyd and I didn’t know.”
She says that when she looks back at those times now, one thing stands out in her memory.

“I thought when Tajh came to Clemson he would help change the program around,” she said. “But I remember his press conference when announced – he said he wanted to help Clemson win another ACC Championship and get Clemson back on the map. He was still in high school, but it’s amazing how he said he wanted Clemson to be in the top ten, win the ACC and go to the Orange Bowl. Those things have happened. But it took a lot of hard work, prayer and faith that things would turn around.”

Part two of A Parent's Life will be posted tomorrow

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