All concerned would rather talk about Jadon Boatright’s being back than about why he left.
And if he makes good on his second chance, why he left won’t matter.
Boatright, a UNM junior cornerback, first came to UNM in the fall of 2013. He saw considerable playing time as a freshman and as a sophomore, making 42 tackles those seasons. He started six games as a sophomore.
Then, after spring practice in 2015, he left the team, withdrew from classes and went home to Liberty Hill, Texas.
Now he’s back, sharing first-team repetitions at corner with seniors Isaiah Brown and Nias Martin.
“We’re back in the flow,” Boatright – small (5-foot-10, 173 pounds) but fast and fearless – said after a practice last week. “I’ve still got a lot of things to work on as far as technique goes. … Coming out of my breaks and everything. But we’re back in the flow now.
“It’s kind of confusing the reason I left, but I’m glad I came back and coach (Bob) Davie allowed me to come back and play. Hopefully, I can make a difference this year when we go win a bowl game.”
When Boatright left, Davie said only that the young cornerback was unhappy in the UNM program. Davie was unhappy, as well, because Boatright left without completing his academic work for the 2015 spring semester.
Though Boatright might regret the circumstances of his leaving, he doesn’t really regret having left – calling it a self-imposed redshirt year during which he grew as a person.
At home in the Texas hill country, he went about getting some life experiences. He worked as a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym; as a salesman at Complete Nutrition; as a sales rep for Sprint. He took classes at Austin Community College in an effort to shore up his academics.
Meanwhile, a few of his UNM teammates were urging him to return.
One of those was senior defensive end Nik D’Avanzo.
“I met Jadon my freshman year, and ever since then we’ve honestly just been brothers,” D’Avanzo said. “… I just kept trying to motivate him (to return), because he’s a great football player and I knew he can really go far.”
Another was the late Markel Byrd, a Lobos safety who was killed in a car crash Dec. 22 while on his way home to California after the 2015 fall semester.
“(Byrd) texted me and said ‘Hey, we need you back as a corner,'” Boatright said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if coach Davie’s gonna let me come back because of how I left.’
“Isaiah Brown, Nik D’Avanzo, they both wanted me back, too. That’s when I contacted coach Davie, right before Markel passed. … So, yeah, this season, it’s for Markel. We’re playing for Markel this year.”
Ultimately, Davie agreed to bring Boatright back. Boatright was required to take four classes in summer school at UNM, and Davie said there are still things he needs to see before he’s fully convinced.
“But he’s on a good track right now,” Davie said. “… I’ve been encouraged. He’s done this, really, on his own.”
Cornerbacks coach Al Simmons worked with Boatright in the spring of 2015, before the player left.
“We love having him back,” Simmons said. “Tell you what, he just brings more competition to the position, which I love.”
The UNM defensive scheme is far more aggressive and requires much more man-to-man coverage from its cornerbacks than the scheme in which Boatright played in 2013-14.
“He’s doing a great job in meetings, in terms of taking notes,” Simmons said. “… He seems pretty locked in.”
Locked, Boatright said, and loaded.
“We’ve all got that mentality that we’re gonna go out there and no one’s really gonna beat us,” he said. “… That’s gonna carry us a long way throughout the season.”
ROSTER MOVES: Taylor Lindsey, a 6-4, 271-pound offensive lineman from Santa Ana (Calif.) College, is a late addition to the UNM roster. Lindsey, who’s from Corona, Calif., was in uniform Saturday. He’s a sophomore with four years in which to play three seasons.
“(Lindsey) went to junior college to have happen what happened,” Davie said, “just to be recruited at a little higher level, probably, than he’d been in high school.”
Lindsey’s grandparents live in Albuquerque, Davie said.
Lindsey’s addition brings the roster to the NCAA limit of 85 scholarship players and completes the 2016 signing class of 25.
Since February, two signees, offensive lineman David Swaby and defensive back Patrick Peek, did not qualify academically. Lindsey, linebacker Evah Tohi (Glendale, Ariz., Community College), wide receiver Anselem Umeh (St. John Bosco High School, Bellflower, Calif.) and defensive back Elijah Lilly (Cajon High School, San Bernardino, Calif.) have been added to the roster.