Boomer Mays put jarring hits on Ezekiel Elliott and Kareem Hunt in college. The stout linebacker wants the chance to do it again, this time in the NFL.
Mays, a four-year starter at Northern Illinois, is a rookie free agent who can play two different positions (linebacker, long snapper) and possesses enviable measurables (6-foot-1, 235 pounds). He went undrafted in 2016 despite being told by scouts that he could go as high as the third round. Four years later, the 26-year-old is still looking for a lucky break, another chance to fulfill his lifelong dream of playing on Sundays.
“I’m using every contact I have,” Mays told Heavy.com. “Making every phone call I can put in and knocking on every door I can. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
And staying in shape. Mays has stuck to an insane workout regiment — five times a week, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. — while keeping in touch with former college teammates that have gone on to NFL success, guys like the Lions’ Kenny Golladay and the 49ers’ Jimmie Ward. All the hard work is done behind closed doors, says Mays.
“All the best players in the world, that’s when they put in the work,” Mays said. “You always have to improve your weaknesses and enhance your strengths. It seems like a lot of guys like playing football but not all of them know how to win. I know how to work. I know how to win. I know how to help a team. I just need a chance.”
It’s a lesson that Mays learned at a young age from his dad, Byron. The elder Mays was a defensive lineman for the University of Kansas and played in the Arena Football League. He named his son after his favorite football player — yup, you guessed it — former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason.
“He told me to keep working,” the younger Mays said. “It’s just a matter of an opportunity. I’ve done all the grunt work.”
Mays Wreaked Havoc at Northern Illinois
The year was 2015 and Ohio State was facing a crucial 3rd-and-2 from its own 36-yeard line. Boomer Mays lined up as the middle linebacker in Northern Illinois’ base 4-3 defense. He knew a run was coming and when bruising Buckeyes back Ezekiel Elliott took the hand-off, Mays sniffed it out. Fourth down.
While Ohio State went on to win that game, the play proved that Mays belonged. He was later invited to the NFLPA Bowl in California where he played for former NFL coach Mike Martz. Scouts raved about his “agility, burst and change of direction” after he finished his college career with 302 tackles, including 114 in his senior year.
The Kansas native only missed four total tackles during his whole collegiate career — “I think that’s a record,” Mays said — while racking up All-MAC accolades and a spot on the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List in 2015.
Yet, he missed out on an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in 2016 by two votes. On draft night, Mays sat around and listened for his name to get called. It never did, although there were a few nibbles.
“I received a few calls but never the call,” Mays said. “The Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins both called and told me I was going to be the next pick. But, they were supposed to trade some guys and those deals never went through. My phone was ringing, just didn’t land with a team.”
Then, 20 minutes after the draft ended, his phone rang again. It was the Kansas City Chiefs and they invited him for a tryout at their rookie minicamp. They were looking for a long snapper.
“Unfortunately, I left without a contract,” Mays said.
He went through the same rigmarole with the New Orleans Saints that year. Once again, he went home without a locker to call his own.
Mays Leaning on Former Eagles LB Mark Simoneau
When Boomer Mays talks about his biggest assets, they all center on intangibles.
The communications major cites that he’s a proven winner who works hard at his trade. Mays has never been hurt — 55 games in four years at Northern Illinois — and never missed a practice. Better yet, he’s never even been late to a team meeting.
“I’m a guaranteed choice,” Mays said. “You know what you are getting with me.”
Still, it’s been a slow crawl toward securing a roster spot. One thing keeping him motivated has been reminiscing about his time with former NFL linebacker Mark Simoneau. The former Philadelphia Eagle runs a sports performance facility in the Kansas City area and trained Mays coming out of college. The two worked on weight training, combine drills and yoga. The extra work helped prepare him for his tryouts with the Saints and Chiefs in 2016.
“He [Simoneau] told me that I’m a guy who could play in the NFL,” Mays said. ” I have the speed, the size and the film to make it.”
Mays also counts former Chiefs defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer and former Lions defensive assistant Don Clemons among his many connections, along with former Steelers running back Merrill Hoge. He met Hoge during a stint playing in Your Call Football, a league where the fans call-in the plays from a mobile app.
Mays has also spent time in the Alliance of American Football and participated in the XFL Draft and Combine. He worked out for the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks but didn’t make final cuts. However, he did clock 4.60 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the XFL Combine and 10.3 inches in the broad jump.
Why didn’t he land with a team?
“Well, you never get a concrete answer,” Mays said. “My guess is that they kind of already know the guys they want before they get there. Then, you come in and get 15 or 16 reps, and you might do good but no one noticed. That’s just the way it goes.”
Don’t think for a second that Mays is giving up, though.
“I’m just going to keep pushing until something works out,” Mays said. “My entire life, if I have to.”
Follow the Heavy Philadelphia Eagles page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!