Longtime Baltimore Ravens tight end Nick Boyle’s career has almost ended prematurely once before, and after bringing it back from the brink once, he’s not ready for it to end just yet, and he got some help in continuing it, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The veteran Ravens tight end suffered a gruesome knee injury in 2020 that doctors said might have ended his playing days right then and there.
In the cringe-inducing play at New England’s Gillette Stadium, Boyle suffered a torn MCL, PCL and meniscus, ripped his hamstring off the bone and broke his leg.
The surgery involved the most intense pain Boyle had ever experienced, and his surgeon said it was one of the worst knee injuries he’d ever seen.
After a second procedure, Boyle returned to the Ravens. He played in five games in 2021 and then 12 in 2022. Always primarily a blocking threat, Boyle caught just one pass after his injury.
In January, the Ravens put Boyle through waivers, signifying the end of his eight-year tenure with the club. But Doyle isn’t ready to hang up his cleats for good just yet.
Instead of the physical grind of a being a blocking tight end, Boyle looked into his past for a passion that he hopes can extend his career: long snapping. That might not be the most obvious career path, but Boyle thinks he can make it work — and he’s had that thought before.
“With my leg, I wanted to transition to something less taxing on my body,” Boyle said. “I went to long snapping camps in high school, so I feel like I have a decent foundation. Even last year, I almost snapped in the last regular season game because the long snapper was having a baby and then he was sick the following week and I was snapping in their practice periods, and I was like, ‘I can do this.’”
Boyle has always had a bit of an underdog story. Coming out of High Point Regional High School in Sussex, New Jersey, he was unrated as a collegiate prospect, despite quality size (6-foot-5) for the position.
“I do think he was missed,” said Jim Delany, who was Boyle’s high school coach. “He had a ton of potential. You knew he was going to be a big kid.”
Eventually, Delaware came through with a scholarship offer, so Boyle could put away the long snapping and focus on tight end, where he developed nicely with the Blue Hens. Boyle was a two-time all-CAA selection, an All-American as a senior, and finished as the all-time Delaware leader among tight ends in receptions with 101.
The Ravens picked him in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and Boyle became a regular in purple and black, playing in 73 games and starting 50 before his gruesome knee injury.
Now 30, it was one thing for Boyle to decide to give long snapping a shot. It was another for an NFL team to give him a chance to do it. Enter a surprising twist to the story: the Pittsburgh Steelres, the Ravens’ arch rivals, were the ones to pick up the phone.
“It’s not like everyone calls looking for a long snapper,” Boyle said. “It’s awesome. It’s cool to come here to see how it’s ran from this side here. In Baltimore, we just looked at them like, the Pittsburgh Steelers. …
“It’s cool to be here and see how something else works. I still love Baltimore, still have good relationships there. It’s still unique and different and exciting.”
Boyle was the oldest player at the Steelers’ rookie minicamp by a long shot, playing with a bunch of 22-year-olds for a shot on the Pittsburgh 90-man roster.
“I feel old,” Boyle said. “I’m at a rookie minicamp. I’m showing up meetings 15 minutes early, too and doing all this other stuff, too.”
Boyle is far from a rookie, but he’s hoping he still has some time ahead of him on his NFL jersey, and his unlikely tryout with the Steelers might be the ticket to continuing it.