DANVILLE — Only the most ardent Danville football fan would have known junior Tavion Boyd before this football season.
That's because a year earlier, Boyd didn't have a single tackle for the Vikings and he had just 10 yards rushing on five carries. Most of his experience last season came on the sophomore squad.
So when Danville High kicked off the 2013 season, it was a little surprising to see the junior starting on both offense and defense.
"I was very surprised to be starting on both sides of the football,'' Boyd admitted. "I kind of knew that I was going to be starting on defense, but I thought I would just play a little offense.''
And that's exactly what Danville coach B.J. Luke was planning to do with the 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior. But his work ethic and his commitment made his a valuable commodity on both sides of the ball.
"He has done a nice job of improving himself as a football player,'' Luke said. "As the season has progressed, his role has increased.''
One of his responsibilities is getting Danville into the proper defensive alignment.
"He is a young leader,'' said senior Chris Collier. "Coach has him making the calls for the (defense). He's doing a lot more than people would expect for his junior season.''
Boyd is making the most of his opportunity. He is currently second on the team in tackles with 47 and Boyd has one of the Vikings four interceptions on the season.
"He has surprised a lot of people this season and he has made some big plays for us,'' said junior defensive end Tyvon Cooper.
So, how does Boyd explain his major improvement this year?
"I think it's all the work I did in the offseason with Trent (Sherfield) and Chris Collier,'' Boyd said. "We worked on everything, trying to get better as a team.
"By working out with those guys, I was anticipating myself getting better. I wanted to step up and take on a role with the team.''
Collier admitted he could see a change in the junior during those workouts.
"Confidence can really change a person,'' Collier said. "I think he realized, as we were working out, that he could play in the Big 12 Conference and be a pretty good player.''
But, it wasn't until a 7-on-7 tournament during the summer that Boyd really understood what was ahead for him.
"Coach (Brian) Anderson told me that they liked my cover skills and I was going to keep the position as long as I kept working hard,'' Boyd said.
Not only has Boyd continued to work hard to become a starter, but he's also made a couple of plays this season that has drawn the attention of his coaches.
Both of them were plays where he made touchdown-saving tackles. The one against Decatur Eisenhower is the most memorable one for Boyd as he almost had a tackle for a loss. But when the running back eluded him and reversed course, Boyd had to get back up and run down the ball carrier from behind. His tackle on that play helped the Vikings secure their only shutout of the season.
"Every day, our coaches are always telling us that no matter what happens in the game, never give up,'' Boyd said. "I just trying to hustle on every play and make it right for the team.
"But the play against Eisenhower, I missed the tackle. I knew I had to get back up and save the touchdown on the opposite side of the field. I don't get back up and run him down, that would have made me look bad.''
Coach Luke said both plays were very important for the team and show his ability.
Boyd admits, the compliments from the coaches are good to hear.
"It's a confidence boost,'' he said. "It lets me know that I'm doing my role and I'm doing good.
Luke added, "we're hoping that he continues to keep getting better this season and next.''
In addition to playing wide receiver and defensive back, Boyd spent his freshman and sophomore seasons playing a little quarterback for the Vikings.
"We like to work all our skill guys out at different positions,'' Luke said. "We know that we can put him in there at quarterback if we need to.''
Boyd says he will do whatever it takes for the Vikings, but he does prefer play defensive back the most.
"You get to lay the hit, instead of taking the hit on defense,'' he said.
After the season is over, Boyd plans to switch over the basketball team and he will run track this spring. He says that he hopes to go to college and he wants to become a athletic trainer.
"I really want to stay around sports,'' Boyd said. "Right now, I'm in a sports medicine class with our trainer, Mr. (Dale) Hemker and I really like it. We have learned all about taping and the different kind of injuries.
"I've learned how to stretch properly to help certain muscles.''
Slowly, but surely, Boyd is making a name for himself with the Danville football program.