AAF helps Melvindale's Malik Boynton hang on to NFL dream
The Super Bowl is over but football is not.
The new eight-team Alliance of American Football (AAF) will kick off its season this weekend with big names like Steve Spurrier (Orlando Apollos) and Mike Martz (San Diego Fleet) roaming the sidelines.
The AAF is also a big opportunity for former Melvindale star Malik Boynton, who will play cornerback for the Memphis Express, which opens its season Sunday against the Birmingham Iron.
Boynton has come a long way in his football career, finally finding a home for himself at Austin Peay after being overlooked by major college programs. He was named team captain his senior year in 2017 and led Austin Peay to an eight-win season after the team went 1-45 the previous four years.
Boynton’s play at Austin Peay and his performance at Vanderbilt’s Pro Day caught the eye of representatives of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who invited him to minicamp this past spring.
Boynton got cut by the Steelers but learned a lot, and now his dream of playing in the NFL starts anew this weekend with the Express, who are coached by former two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Mike Singletary.
“It’s real exciting to get another chance to put on the helmet and go out and do what I love to do, but it’s also exciting for another opportunity to get to the next level and play one day in the NFL,” Boynton said. “In my case, coming from a smaller school at Austin Peay it’s a better way to get a lot more exposure and prove that I can play with some of the bigger names in the game.”
Boynton will get the chance to do that when he goes up against Birmingham Iron running back Trent Richardson, who was the third overall pick by the Browns in 2012. Richardson was a two-time national champion at Alabama and then rushed for nearly 900 yards in his rookie year with the Browns.
Boynton wants football fans to tune in and watch the AAF, which will have a 10-week season. Three of the four games this weekend are on national TV.
“I want the fans to see our team come together like the best team in the league, and for myself I want them to see a passionate player who loves the game of football,” he said. “I hope to entertain them so they’ll get their money’s worth if they come to a game or watch on TV.”
Boynton loves the disciplined style of Singletary. He’s also learned a lot from defensive backs coach Oshiomogho Atogwe, a Windsor native a Windsor native who was second in the NFL in interceptions (eight) in 2007 with the Rams.
“He gives us freedom to play our game and gives us the tools to go out there and execute at a high level,” Boynton said of Atogwe.
Boynton thinks he has what it takes to be an NFL player.
“I learned going to rookie minicamp with the Steelers that I could go out and compete at that level for sure, but I also learned that it’s a lot of little things that separate the good from the great,” he said. “Everybody at that level is talented and it comes down to separating yourself with a good work ethic and great fundamentals.”
Here is the schedule of games for the opening weekend of the AAF:
Atlanta Legends at Orlando Apollos
Kickoff: 8 p.m., Spectrum Stadium, Orlando
TV: CBS (regional coverage)
San Diego Fleet at San Antonio Commanders
Kickoff: 8 p.m., Alamo Dome, San Antonio
TV: CBS (shown nationally except for Southeast)
Memphis Express at Birmingham Iron
Kickoff: 4 p.m., Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
Salt Lake Stallions at Arizona Hotshots
Kickoff: 8 p.m., Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
TV: NFL Network