|Kyle Boden -- a standout
student and lightning sharp passer -- is the clear-cut leader of
the Wasps football team.
Emory and Henry athletics photo
The numbers matter very little. The 80.8 completion percentage through three games this season, the 3.985 grade point average, the 14 wins in 23 games as a starter -- all of those impressive statistics pale in comparison to Kyle Boden’s accomplishments at Emory and Henry.
You would be hard pressed to find another student-athlete who exemplifies what Division III football is all about.
“In all my years of coaching, I’ve seen very few young men like him,” said Wasps head coach Don Montgomery. “You can’t ask for a better leader than Kyle Boden.”
The Wasps are off to a 3-0 start heading into ODAC play for the second straight year. The senior class is determined to continue winning. Last year, the Wasps dropped their first three conference contests and finished the year 6-4 overall.
“We have a great group of seniors who have stuck out some adversity,” said Boden. “We’ve made it this far and we’ve seen what it takes to be successful in the ODAC.”
Boden is the clear-cut leader of the Wasps. Not just the football team, but the college. The two-year captain of the football team is involved in student government, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, leads his teammates in service activities including tutoring elementary school students, was appointed to represent the student body on the Board of Trustees committee to select the next president of the college, and is applying for medical school and a Rhodes Scholarship.
Senior wide receiver Cleo Cooper is involved around campus outside of football, as a resident adviser, FCA member and statistician for the basketball teams. But, he recognizes that the man throwing him the ball takes the college experience to a whole different level.
“Kyle is not your average individual,” said Cooper. “He doesn’t want to let anyone down. He always goes beyond.”
Boden stood out as a high school player in Knoxville, Tenn. When Montgomery went to recruit Boden, he immediately saw that there was more to his future signal-caller than what went on on Friday nights.
“What I first recognized about Kyle was that he was very involved in his community,” said Montgomery. “We went to a baseball game, and he worked with handicapped children, his GPA and ACT score were off the charts, and everybody in his community loves him. I’m thinking, ‘this is almost too good to be true.’”
Fortunately for Montgomery and the Wasps, Boden is the real deal. He thrives under pressure, and enjoys making the most out of every opportunity that comes his way, on and off the field.
“I find that when I have a great week in the classroom, I feel better come Saturday,” said Boden. “It really keeps me balanced.”
The quarterback sets the tone for the rest of the team. He is far from the only Wasps player to excel on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.
“Football is not the number one thing and football is not the reason that we’re here,” said senior wide receiver Chad Williams. “That starts with Coach. He has done a great job preparing us.”
Boden does relish his role as the leader of the football program and, whether he accepts it or not, he is the leader of the student body. When it came time to select a new president of the college, Boden was appointed by the school’s Board of Trustees to assist in the selection process. It was unusual for a student to have a say in such an impactful decision-making process, but Boden was up to the task.
“I’ve never seen a young man as mature as him,” said Montgomery. “He walks the walk and talks the talk.”
All of the off-field activity does not distract Boden from his role as the leader of the Emory and Henry offense. He takes pride in his role as captain and has found a balance that works for him.
“As a quarterback, you have a responsibility to be the guy your teammates can count on,” said Boden. “I never allow myself to make excuses for being too busy. I really try to structure my academic workload to where it doesn’t conflict with film or practice time.”
Both Cooper and Williams starred as high school quarterbacks. Cooper was moved to wide receiver at Winston Salem State University, and transferred the same year Boden and Williams enrolled. Williams, like Cooper, ran the wing-T offense in high school. He came to Emory to compete for the starting quarterback position. When he and Boden entered their first camp, there were nine quarterbacks on the Wasps roster.
“Our offensive coordinator at the time fell in love with Kyle, and I don’t blame him,” said Williams. “I’m thankful to be in the position I’m in now and for the opportunity to contribute.”
Boden was determined to work his way to the top of the depth chart. As a sophomore, he beat out a senior captain for the starting job. He encourages any future players to compete the way he did each day in camp.
“It’s OK to go after something, and it’s OK if you don’t reach that goal. You can’t be afraid to chase whatever it is that you’re focused on,” said Boden. “Be relentless in the pursuit of your goals.”
After dropping their first three ODAC games last year, the Wasps were able to bounce back. They again have to face the toughest part of the conference schedule at the beginning, with Randolph-Macon, Washington and Lee and Hampden-Sydney over the next three weeks. In 2012, Boden made sure the team kept its collective head up, even after it was essentially eliminated from ODAC contention.
“His biggest progression came last year, when we were struggling,” said Montgomery. “He kept being positive and never folded under pressure.”
This year’s senior class entered the season knowing that it had one last chance to reverse its ODAC fortunes. The offseason was a critical turning point for the Wasps. The veterans and coaches addressed the problems that most affected the team in 2012 and resolved to focus on committing every snap to the team in 2013.
“We feel like this year, everyone is buying into our program,” said Cooper. “As an upperclassman, I’m a lot more confident. We’re having a lot of fun right now.”
The renewed focus begins with Boden. His classmates look up to him as much as the underclassmen do. His efforts on and off the field have bolstered the football program in ways both seen and unseen.
“We have a good atmosphere going here and he is at the center of it. Our team rallies around him,” said Montgomery. “He’s done a great job of changing the face and perception of the Emory and Henry football program. He’s shown how to be a true scholar-athlete.”
Boden is not content to be the star of the football team. He came to Emory and Henry in large part due to the academic opportunities the school affords its students. Just because he plays football does not mean that Boden is at E&H to just to play the game.
“I’ve taken it upon myself to try and break the stereotype that college student athletes are just dumb jocks,” said Boden. “I think now our professors realize how hard we work and they admire how we are able to manage all of our commitments.”
Boden brings tenacity and relentlessness to the classroom and labs. He brings that same effort to the film room and practice field each day.
“He’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve been around,” said Montgomery. “He always wants one more rep in practice.”
Cooper missed the first four games of his redshirt junior season with a fractured ankle. He was as eager as anyone to start the senior campaign on a high note. The deep threat on the outside of the Wasps’ spread formation leads the team with 21.3 yards per catch and is second with 92.3 receiving yards per game. He is enjoying his final season playing with Boden.
“He knows what to do and how to prepare our team,” said Cooper. “We came in together, and we’ve developed a relationship over our four years here. I feel like we can pick up on coverages quicker than most QB-WR combos because I’ve played quarterback before.”
The seniors have made an impact in the community that they hope is a lasting one. Whether it is volunteering at church, or at elementary schools near campus, the Wasps have done their part to gain the respect of the E&H community.
“Those types of acts have helped people understand that we care about more than just what happens on Saturdays,” said Boden. “I think I speak for all of our seniors when I say that when we leave Emory and Henry, we want this place to be better than it was when we got here.”
“Kyle is brilliant,” said Williams. “There is not a day that I don’t love him being my quarterback.”
“We all look up to him. It’s because of his leadership on and off of the field that makes us a successful team.”
“He’s got great grit and internal fortitude,” said Montgomery. “No matter what he does in his life, he will be a leader.”
Boden admits that his senior year feels a bit different than years past. He appreciated the time he spent on the sidelines as a freshman, and believes it made him the quarterback he is today. He has at least seven more weeks to make his mark on the Wasps football program, and can be assured that his legacy will go far beyond his final snap.
“It’s been a blast. It’s hard to believe it’s already my senior year,” said Boden. “A big point of emphasis for me this season has just been to enjoy each day. At the end of the day, it’s the relationships with people that motivate me the most.”
Gettysburg was the only team to notch its first Centennial win of the season. The Bullets defeated winless Susquehanna, 42-28, behind a huge day from receiver Aden Twer. Twer caught seven passes for 135 yards and two scores. Tommy Lenoir added 119 yards and a score on four receptions. Quarterback Zach Miller was very efficient, connecting on 18 of 24 passes for 298 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Dickinson forced seven turnovers, including six interceptions, to keep Moravian winless on the year. Six different Red Devils had a pick, which helped the offense possess the ball for more than 40 minutes in the 31-7 victory. Moravian and Susquehanna are the only teams in the conference still seeking their first victory of 2013.
Wesley bounced back with authority after being routed by Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Wolverines jumped out to a 37-0 lead after one quarter of play en route to a 46-12 road win at Birmingham-Southern.
Johns Hopkins continued its dominance with a 45-13 trouncing of Muhlenberg. The Blue Jays and Ursinus are the only undefeated teams left in the Centennial. The Bears come to Baltimore on Nov. 2.
With ODAC play beginning this week, conference play is in full swing. Huntingdon won its official USA South opener, defeating Ferrum with one of the most balanced offensive performances of the season. The Hawks passed for 462 yards and rushed for 312 yards to keep pace with Christopher Newport as the only undefeated teams in the conference.
What Did I Miss? Do you know about any upcoming milestones, big games or new names in the Mid-Atlantic? Please share them with me. If you have suggestions for next week's column, please reach out to me on Twitter at @adamturer or via email at email@example.com.