Denzel Boston entered the University of Washington's Rising Stars Camp this summer hoping his in-person workout might impress the Husky coaching staff.
He and the coaches already knew one other, but he put on an eye-opening performance for them. A rangy 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, he ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash to begin the day. He caught everything thrown near him, but he saved his best for last where he demonstrated his instincts and concentration level.
A defensive back jumped the route on a pass play for what should have been a clean interception. However, the ball bounced off the defender and Boston snatched it out of the air with one hand and did a toe-tap inbounds for the reception. It was an incredibly athletic play.
Shortly afterward, the stadium buzzer went off and the session was over. Boston received the MVP for the camp receivers for his overall play.
"They got to see how I move," he said, "and I ran a pretty good 40 time."
All of his camp efforts paid off. On Wednesday, Boston from Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup, Washington, committed to the UW after receiving an offer he wasn't necessarily counting on.
He had other scholarship proposals sent his way from Pac-12 schools, but this one was far from a certainty for him. It was quite the opposite.
"I wasn't even expecting the offer from U-Dub," Boston said. "It was a shock."
In regular conversation with Washington for a year, Boston actually felt if he was going to don the purple and gold it initially was going to be on his own dime.
"I thought that they were more of a walk-on type vibe with me," he said.
When the offer came, Boston didn't take long for him to let Jimmy Lake know what he was thinking. He called him the next morning and committed.
"Coach Lake was ecstatic and he said, 'Let's get it rocking. Let's go win a national championship,' " the receiver said of the moment.
The message from his future position coach Junior Adams was a lot less celebratory and more that of a mentor telling him the truth. It was going to be a challenge and he better be up for it. Boston appreciated Adams' candor.
"Let's get back to the grinding board," the coach told Boston. "You're back at the bottom of the food chain. Let's work your way back up."
The frankness was very well-received by the Emerald Ridge pass-catcher.
"I appreciate that as being real — that's family," he said. "That's what I want to be a part of."
Growing up in Puyallup and being coached by his father along the way, he plays in the 4A South Puget Sound League. Emerald Ridge often flies under the radar, finishing in the bottom half of a conference that includes Graham-Kapowsin, Sumner, Bellarmine Prep, Puyallup, Rogers and Curtis.
Tempted to transfer to Kennedy Catholic, where current Huskies Sav'ell Smalls, Sam Huard and Jabez Tinae played previously, he decided against it, wanting to finish what he started with his original high school teammates.
"We're ready to make a run deep into the playoffs," he said. "I've been playing with the same team since third grade."
He fluctuates between 180 and 185 pounds on his tall frame. His goal is to be 195 without losing speed. He used the down time from the pandemic to noticeably improve his ability to move down the field.
"I feel like I've gotten faster this offseason," he said. "I am more explosive."
The advantage to playing football games last spring is the film of his junior campaign is fresh and he knows exactly what he needs to do to step it up for the approaching season.
"I have my summer to go work on those things," he said. "I'm going to be way better this year than I was in the spring."
He's focusing on running cleaner routes and the nuances of the position. He's found himself better at decelerating and changing direction than before.
"I've worked on my hips, my feet and my hand-fighting," he said.
The Huskies have noticed and rewarded him for it. He's no longer a surprise to anyone, especially to himself.