As TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin sat in a McDonald's last summer staring at his double cheeseburger and chicken sandwich, he began to question what he was about to eat. "It just did not look right to me," Boykin told The Inside Read. "The meat didn't look right."
That moment of clarity inspired Boykin to research fast food. As the owner of two pit bulls he treats like his children, a male named Taz and a female named Cookie, he was disturbed by what he found. He quickly became familiar with factory farming, large industrial indoor farms where livestock is mass produced. He was shocked to learn that chicks are ground up alive at some chicken hatcheries.
It was enough for Boykin to stop eating fast food completely, which helped him drop 20 pounds (he now weighs 205) and become one of college football's most dynamic playmakers last season.
"Animal cruelty, I'm just not a big fan of," Boykin said. "It's just weird. I couldn't do it."
With Boykin a Heisman Trophy favorite this season and TCU a popular pick to reach the College Football Playoff, the redshirt senior has tried to use his star power to educate others about animal cruelty via Twitter. He routinely retweets photos from a national Humane Society employee.
Last month, for example, Boykin retweeted to his more than 9,000 followers a photo of a calf about to be hit in the head with a pickaxe held by a human. It contained the caption, "There's NO excuse for animal abuse."
He also retweeted earlier in the month a photo of pigs, cows and a chicken crowded in enclosures that included the caption, "We must stop factory farming."
"It surprises me every time," Boykin said of what he retweets.
Not that Boykin needs a reminder about animal cruelty. His beloved dogs make him ponder it often. "I don't see how you could do that," Boykin said.
During Boykin's whirlwind rise to college football prominence over the last year, he credits Taz and Cookie for helping him stay focused. "It's just like having kids," Boykin said. "I have to take care of my dogs. … It keeps you mellow. You stay in the house. You don't have to go do anything. You can have fun with them."
As tough as Boykin is on opposing defenses, he is even tougher on animal cruelty.
"You have to, it's just the way it is," Boykin said. "I take pride in that."
Ex-Florida officials: We wouldn't take Ukwuachu because of past
Although Baylor coach Art Briles maintains he did not know about Sam Ukwuachu's past history of violence against a woman at Boise State before accepting him as a transfer, at least one other school did.
Florida considered taking Ukwuachu in May 2013, but then-Gators coach Will Muschamp decided against it after a Boise State athletic department employee detailed Ukwuachu's troubles with a girlfriend, according to two former Florida athletic department employees.
That included the former freshman All-America defensive end's alleged physical abuse of his girlfriend and an allegation that Ukwuachu put his fist through a window while drunk at the couple's home, one of the ex-staffers said. (Ukwuachu was not charged in either incident.)
"There was no way," one of the former Florida employees told The Inside Read of Ukwuachu. "[Muschamp] wouldn't touch him."
Ukwuachu was convicted last Thursday of sexually assaulting an ex-Baylor soccer player in 2013 and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, along with 10 years of probation. Baylor has launched an internal inquiry into the matter, but Briles said in a statement that former Boise State coach Chris Petersen recommended Ukwuachu to him and did not disclose the defensive end's past, other than "team-related issues, insubordination of coaches and missing practice."
Peterson, now Washington's coach, said in a statement he called Briles and "thoroughly apprised" him of the circumstances surrounding Ukwuachu's disciplinary record and dismissal from Boise State's team in May 2013.
During Ukwuachu's trial, his girlfriend at Boise State testified that he punched her in the head several times, choked her, physically restrained her from leaving and had a violent temper. Ukwuachu denied those allegations.
"Just a bad situation," one of the former Florida staffers said. "It just wasn't good."
Ukwuachu also wasn't completely forthcoming with Florida about his relationship with his former girlfriend, the former Gators athletic department employee said. But the Boise State athletic department employee was clear about Ukwuachu's issues, according to the former Florida staffer.
Said the ex-Florida official: "There was absolutely no doubt."
Penn State's Shoop back at the top of his game
After being fired as Columbia's coach in 2005, Bob Shoop was unsure if he would work in college football again. He interviewed to be an assistant at Stanford and the defensive coordinator at Rhode Island, but didn't get either job. So, he discussed NFL scouting jobs with the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens, only to realize if he took those positions he would hardly see his family.
As a last resort, Shoop even considered trying to break into broadcasting as a color analyst. "I didn't know what I was going to do," Shoop told The Inside Read. "It was a challenging time certainly, personally and professionally."
A decade later, Shoop has now become one of the nation's hottest assistants entering his second season as Penn State's defensive coordinator. So hot, in fact, that he turned down the opportunity to be LSU's defensive coordinator in January, instead signing a three-year contract with the Nittany Lions worth approximately $1 million annually.
"There's still times when I think, wow," Shoop said.
It's been a long road back for the 49-year-old Shoop, who had a 7-23 record in his three seasons at Columbia. But all along, his father, Bob, reminded him that George Seifert was fired as the coach of Cornell before going on to lead the San Francisco 49ers to a pair of Super Bowl victories. "I had to be humble enough to recognize there were steps to rebuild my personal brand," Shoop said.
Shoop's return started when he got hired in 2006 as UMass's defensive backs coach under then-Minutemen coach Don Brown. Shoop had played for Brown when he was Yale's defensive coordinator. UMass ended up advancing to the NCAA Division I-AA championship game that season behind Brown's aggressive, in-your-face defense, a scheme that has become Shoop's trademark. "It really rejuvenated and reinvigorated me," Shoop said.
The following season Shoop became William & Mary's defensive coordinator, but his unit struggled, ranking 100th or worse in nearly every major category. It once again caused Shoop to ponder his coaching future. "I had to take a hard look at myself," Shoop said.
But Shoop turned around William & Mary's defense over next three seasons, which led James Franklin to hire him as defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt in 2011. It was a thrill for Shoop, a Pittsburgh-area native, when Franklin became Penn State's coach last season and he followed in his current role.
Having worked with the dynamic Franklin for four seasons, Shoop insists he is a better coach than when he was at Columbia, if only because he understands the importance of meaningful relationships with players. "I enjoy that now," Shoop said. "I'm much more at ease with who I am."
That means Shoop doesn't take himself nearly as seriously as he once did. He laughs recalling how Franklin jokingly refers to him as "a zero on the swag meter."
But Shoop's defense speaks for itself. The Nittany Lions surrendered just 278.7 yards per game last season, second in the FBS.
"My swag comes when you come on campus and sit down in the film room with your parents," Shoop said. "You're going to know that Bob Shoop and this defensive staff has your back."
These days Shoop is so confident in his player relationships that he's ready to tell the Nittany Lions about the adversity he endured over the past decade. He hopes to do so through "Shares," in which Franklin has a staff member share a compelling experience.
"It's a neat story," Shoop said, "but hopefully the best part has yet to come."
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