John Boyett is home for two weeks, which means a break from football-related activities, such as lifting weights, running and participating in 1 on 1 and 7 on 7 drills for the University of Oregon.
But Boyett, the Ducks’ starting free safety who was recently named first-team on Phil Steele Publications’ 2011 Preseason All-Pac-12 team, wasn’t sleeping in Wednesday. He reported to Browns Valley Elementary School bright and 10 minutes early, at 7:50 a.m. to assist in the school’s annual field day, which is designed to get the young students outside in the fresh air and engaging in activities in a noncompetitive nature.
“The goal of field day is to get students moving, get students to understand that going outside is important,” said Frank Silva, Browns Valley’s principal. “It’s one day where we’re trying to acknowledge the fact that physical activity is very important. It’s more of like very fun, creative ways of getting kids to work together as a team and move around.”
Students in the upper grades had Boyett — a former Napa High School star who played on the Indians’ 2007 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship team — helping out on the adjacent fields from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on one of the last days of the school year. Wearing an Oregon cap and shirt with UO green and yellow colors, he was an active volunteer, leading the students through different stations. There were over 60 parent volunteers helping out on the overcast day.
“I like to come back, every time I’m home, at least one or two days and try to help out and give back,” said Boyett. “I like to come back and give back to the community and do whatever I can to help out the young guys.”
Boyett, named this week to the Athlon Sports 2011 preseason All-America second team, has a special connection with Browns Valley, located on Buhman Avenue. It’s where he attended elementary school. The students and staff there are some of his biggest fans, going as far as to write to him during a school-wide project before Oregon’s game against Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, Calif. A banner saluting Boyett was displayed in the window of the school’s multi-use room leading up to the game.
This past year, he had a team-high 11 tackles in the BCS Championship Game against Auburn and finished second on the Oregon defense with 78 tackles. He ranked 18th nationally and second in the conference in passes defended with an average of 1.08 per game. He was an All-America second-team choice by SI.com, first-team All-Pac-10 by Scout.com, and All-Pac-10 second-team by Phil Steele Publications.
“He’s a fine young man,” said Laurie Woodward, a teacher at Browns Valley who had Boyett as a student in her second-grade class. Woodward, the coordinator of yesterday’s field day, enjoyed having Boyett on campus as a resource who has attained so much experience and knowledge from playing at such a high level.
“I thought it would be a good thing for him to come back and talk to some of the kids as they’re in that environment of playing in competition of what it takes to be part of a team — that it’s not always about being first, it’s not always about being the one out there, it’s about being part of a team. He did great,” said Woodward. “We try to focus on sportsmanship.”
Boyett has been a big-time player in Oregon’s secondary, intercepting eight passes and registering 168 total tackles in his first two years for the Ducks. A former Napa Saints’ youth football player, he’s also one of the hardest hitters, reacting quickly to where the ball is on the field and taking down running backs and receivers with tremendous consistency.
“The kids just love him and he’s just a great role model for our students,” said Silva. “He’s not a showboater. He does his talking on the field versus spouting off things. I know that I want my students to demonstrate their successes in the classroom and not be a showboater. That’s what I like about John. John puts in hard work, plays hard, and plays fair. That’s what I think is really important.”
Community service is a big thing for Boyett, who also visited Browns Valley during its carnival and went from classroom to classroom during his spring break, thanking students, teachers and staff for writing letters to him and their good wishes before the Rose Bowl.
The message that Boyett passed on to the classes is that sports are important, but learning is the key to success.
“He told the kids that learning was the most important thing,” said Silva.
Being back at Browns Valley — which is close to his family’s home — brought back good feelings and memories.
“Frank Silva runs this school and he does a great job at it. Napa’s my home by far. Whenever I come home, you get some butterflies in your stomach. You get that feel, just because you see all those faces you know and it’s the community you grew up in.”
Boyett hears from his former teachers at Browns Valley who tell him they look forward to watching his college games on weekends.
“I’m definitely proud of the way I’ve played,” he said. “I think I’ve had two real good seasons. But being a competitor, hopefully I can come out and top those two seasons next year and play better, help my team win. It’s a great program and they’ve got great coaches. I’m just happy to be a part of the team and help the team win some games. My main goal is just to go out there and do whatever I can and play to my full potential to help this team win.”
During winter conditioning, Boyett led all defensive backs with a 3.91 shuttle and a 6.84 “L” Run while finishing second in the power clean (314 pounds) and squat (415 pounds), according to the Oregon website.
He returns to Eugene, Ore., June 19 to resume summer workouts and training for his upcoming junior year. The Ducks start the 2011 season on Sept. 3 in a nationally televised game against LSU in Arlington, Texas.
“I feel good physically. I’ll be hopefully gearing up to have a great summer with weights and running and hopefully be ready for the next season coming up,” he said.
Boyett’s younger brother, Charles, attends UC Davis and is a strong safety on the Aggies’ football team. He worked with the team’s 1’s during spring ball and is a freshman.
“He had a great spring,” John said. “He can play any position on the field. He grew up a lot, he’s a big kid now. He’s doing real well.”