It doesn’t take an award to prove Ken Boatright is All-American.
The senior defensive end was selected to the American Football Coaches’ Football Championship Series All-American Team on Tuesday, but his efforts on the football field have been All- American throughout his entire two-year SIU career.
Boatright knows the meaning of hard work.
One of 12 children to William and Mitzi Boatright, Ken has always known competition, considering he shared a bedroom with up to five brothers at one time. When he transferred to SIU and walked onto the football team in 2011, coach Dale Lennon told him he would play defensive end for the Salukis. His previous football experience on the college level had come as a 205-pound safety at Midland University, an NAIA school.
As a walk-on, there were few expectations for Boatright to start during the 2011 season, but he did just that, becoming the team’s defensive Most Valuable Player with 6.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, both tops on the team.
Today, Boatright weighs in at a solid 253 pounds, almost 50 pounds more than his weight as a freshman safety four years ago. He is coming off a senior season where he recorded 5.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and a touchdown scored off of his own blocked punt. The statistics alone are enough to give him All-American team honors, but there is more to Boatright than the numbers.
Boatright is a leader.
It takes a very special player to complete the transformation of walk-on to team captain in less than a year, and Boatright did it. He was named a captain this season, even though several deserving fifth-year seniors were not. He didn’t disappoint in the role, keeping a cool head when the Saluki ship swayed. He always garnered a positive attitude, and he encouraged and truly trusted his teammates.
Boatright is humble.
There were times when the SIU defense carried the team. Few can disagree that the defense alone kept the team in the majority of its games this season when the offense repetitively stalled, sometimes playing entire quarters without recording a first down. Boatright was the catalyst. Yet, he would always answer with “we” instead of “I” when asked about his performance.
“We are a good defense. I have confidence that anyone can step in and make a play,” he would say.
Or, “We know what we have to do, and we need to get the job done.”
Interviews with Boatright were always a delight. It is hard for me to remember a statement he made that wasn’t accompanied with a chuckle or joke. He is an athlete who understands that football is just a game, and a team game at that.
With Boatright’s All-American honor comes the national recognition that he so strongly deserves. He has a bright future, as many NFL scouts are likely licking their chops at a guy that has the coverage skills and field vision of a safety and the grit and determination that allowed him to record 12 sacks in two years as a defensive end in a 3-4 system.
Boatright may have just been given the award, but he has always been an All-American Saluki.