THE BOSTON CONNECTION
The Arizona Cardinals' David Boston muscled up ond turned on the speed to become the NFL's leading receiver.
By Kim Goss
Published: Fall 2002
Although 22 players take the field in a football game, fans tend to focus on the quarterback, the running backs and the wide receivers. These are the players who put most of the points on the scoreboard, and only the best athletes are entrusted to these positions. So when David Boston led the NFL last year with 1,598 receiving yards, he became a franchise player and the center of attention. No longer just a promising talent, David Boston now embodies the sports superstar.
One of the NFL’s strongest and quickest receivers, the fourth-year pro appears to be nowhere near hitting his peak. At the age of 23 years and 4 months, David became the second-youngest player to reach the 1,500-yard milestone (St. Louis Rams’ Isaac Bruce was two months younger when he made his mark). Great numbers, often characterized by David’s acrobatic catches, earned him consensus all-pro and Pro Bowl selections. Here’s how it all happened.
The Early Years
Born August 18, 1978, David Boston comes from a family that could serve as a model for the Be An Eleven program. David’s father, Byron, is a line judge in the NFL and worked two NFC championship games and Super Bowl XXXIV. David’s mother, Carolyn, is president and chief executive officer of Boston Sports Enterprises, Inc. His older brother, Byron Jr., played football at Sam Houston State and is now a Dallas policeman who investigates drug complaints in high-crime areas. His sister, Alicia, is a Dallas attorney who helped negotiate David’s first NFL contract.
David attended Humble High School in Humble, Texas, where he played safety and wide receiver. A high school All-American, David was named the Greater Houston-Area Player of the Year. In his senior year he caught 51 passes for 780 yards, scored eight touchdowns and averaged 23.2 yards on kickoff returns and 17.1 yards on punt returns; on the other side of the ball, he was responsible for 88 tackles and picked off nine interceptions. In basketball, David was a second-team All-Texas selection, and in track he won the district title in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles.
In 1996 David took his all-around athletic talents to Ohio State and enrolled as a Sociology major. The freshman quickly made an impression on the football coaching staff as he played in every game, and he was chosen to start the last seven. Settling down to playing offense only, David caught 33 passes for 450 yards and made seven touchdowns in his first year. He also returned 32 punts for 297 yards and a score. Then there was the Rose Bowl against Jake Plummer and the undefeated Sun Devils of Arizona State University. Showing that he could come through under pressure, David caught the winning touchdown pass from Joe Germaine with just 19 seconds left on the clock.
The next year David caught 70 passes for 930 yards and 14 touchdowns, and returned 44 punts for 387 yards. In 1998 he caught only four more passes than the previous year, but his speed, soft hands and growing experience enabled him to make 1,330 yards and score 13 touchdowns; he also returned 18 punts for 268 yards and a score. Such play earned him All Big Ten honors in his sophomore and junior years.
Conquering the NFL
David’s success at Ohio State made him a hot prospect in the NFL, so hot that he decided to enter the draft at the end of his junior year. His value was reflected in the fact that David was the Cardinals’ first-round pick and the eighth overall pick in the draft.
During his first season in 1999 the Cardinals’ coaching staff was confident enough to start David in eight games, and he repaid that trust by gaining 473 yards on 40 passes (11.8 average). His breakout game occurred on October 10 against the Giants. He caught eight passes for 101 yards, which included an amazing leaping catch from quarterback Jake Plummer for an 11-yard touchdown.
During that year the 6-foot,
2-inch rookie discovered big differences between the college- and pro-game experience. He explains, “The game is much faster - you don’t have enough time to think. The play designs are harder and there are better athletes. Everyone is stronger, faster, bigger, and you’ve got to elevate your game to play at that level.” David rose to the challenge: the following year a preseason knee injury to Rob Moore made David the go-to guy for Plummer.
Starting in all 16 games and earning 1,156 yards on 71 passes (16.3 average), David scored seven touchdowns along the way. His longest catch was a 70-yard touchdown against Philadelphia on October 15, one of the four games that year in which he exceeded 100 yards.
The Poliquin Factor
Prior to the 2001 season, David visited the Poliquin Performance Center in Tempe, Arizona, for some individual conditioning from world-renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin. Poliquin adjusted David’s
diet - which had been carbohydrate heavy - and put him on a serious weight training program.
At the start of his new program, David weighed 209 pounds, with 10 percent body fat. By the end, David had increased his bodyweight to 242 pounds and reduced his body fat to six percent, a net gain of 39 pounds of lean muscle. In the process David also hoisted some heavy weights, including a 315 power clean, a 475 squat and a 425 bench press.
“Gaining 39 pounds of muscle mass in the off-season without the use of steroids may seem impossible, but David's gains were all natural,” says Poliquin. “You must consider that David never seriously trained the large muscle groups such as the glutes and hamstrings, and that his diet was high in refined sugar and consisted of a lot of fast foods. I would never recommend steroids to any athlete - to do so would be professional suicide. Further, the NFL does a great job of screening for banned substances.”
In working with Coach Poliquin to step up his level of play, David found exactly what he was looking for. “What distinguishes Coach Poliquin from other trainers is that he knows the body more than other trainers, and he’s able to find your weak links,” says David. “He also understands football, and what you need to be successful at your position.”
When he first started working with Poliquin and learned about the coach’s plan to add so much muscle mass, David was hesitant. “But as I put on the muscle and got my body used to running with a different weight, I saw that I was able to keep my speed and be even faster than I was before,” says David. He also remarks that the extra strength helped his blocking and enabled him to handle press coverage from the cornerbacks better than he had been able to do when he was lighter.
In addition to coaching David in gaining muscle mass, Poliquin worked on making him a more balanced athlete. David explains, “The first time you meet Charles he does an overall body composition test and then determines your weaknesses.” Poliquin determined that David was proportionately weaker in his lower back, hamstrings and the scapulae retractors (muscles that pull the shoulders back). For the lower back and hamstrings, Poliquin prescribed good mornings, and both Romanian and snatch-grip deadlifts. For his back muscles, David performed numerous variations of chin-ups and pull-ups.
One of the most effective exercise methods David was exposed to in training with Coach Poliquin was lifting chains. “That was the first time I did it and I liked the philosophy behind it,” says David. “Chains force you to explode on the way up, so when you take the chains off you’ll just explode right through that sticking point. This is important in football because when guys try to jam me I’m going to explode right through them.”
And explode he did. For the 2001 season, David again started in all 16 games, his 1,598 yards taking just 98 catches, and he passed the 100-yard game standard seven times. He led the NFL with 72 first downs receiving, and became only the sixth Cardinal to make consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. In the P