Boyette leads young defense in senior year

Michael Shapiro

Walking through the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center, Paul Boyette carries himself like an elder statesman. 

As the No. 11 Longhorns sport a bevy of freshman and sophomore defenders, the senior defensive linemen is the grandfather of the group, having been a part of all the highs and lows of the Texas program over the past four years. Boyette refuses to be impressed by the thrills of a 2–0 start, knowing all too well how quickly steps in the right direction can be reversed.

“I let the young guys know that this is a game of swings,” Boyette said. “We have to just go out and keep our heads high and compete at the highest level every game.”

Of all the problems to plague the Longhorns since former head coach Mack Brown’s departure in 2013, perhaps the biggest was a lack of leadership. Texas went a combined 11–14 in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, marred by inexperience.

But two games into the 2016 season, the tone in Austin has changed. The Longhorns have come to embrace the values put forth by head coach Charlie Strong, heeding the advice of the posters that surrounding Texas’ locker room. The words “respect” and “accountability” no longer act as empty platitudes, but rather definitions for the program moving forward. 

“This team has just come together and you feel how they have so much respect for one another,” Strong said. “We have a small group of seniors who provide so much leadership.”

Boyette’s leadership has become a fixture in the locker room. He serves as the de-facto spokesperson for the Texas defense, outlining what needs to be improved moving forward. When freshmen enter the Longhorn program, Boyette is the player they look to for leadership.

“Being one of the few seniors that we have on the team, he’s taken a lot of the young guys on the defensive line under his wing,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. 

The senior’s leadership hasn’t always been so noticeable. A four-star recruit from Humble, Boyette was redshirted during his first year, and spent most of his sophomore season behind current NFL players Malcom Brown and Hasaan Ridgeway on the depth chart. 

Texas also struggled in Boyette’s sophomore and junior seasons, posting two losing records while failing to win a bowl game and unable to match big wins — like a 24–17 win over No. 10 Oklahoma last season — with sustained success. 

So heading into his senior season, Boyette chose to preach consistency to his defensive teammates. It’s the buzzword he chooses to highlight at nearly every press conference, ensuring the Longhorns bring the same energy every week.

“I really work on being consistent, not having any drop off from game to game,” Boyette said. “We need to bring the same focus and play with relentless effort.”

Beginning the season 2–0 for the first time since 2012 has Texas fans buzzing about the program’s prospects this year. The Longhorns have skyrocketed to No. 11 in the AP poll after being unranked to start the year — they are currently the highest ranked team in the Big 12. 

But after four years of thrilling wins and excruciating losses, Boyette refuses to get too high or too low. He’s seen it all, and leads Texas’ defense with a steady hand.

“We need to learn how to handle success,” Boyette said. “We’ve got to be poised and understand what’s ahead of us.”