NORMAL — What makes Daylen Boddie so dynamic on a football field? There are the fleet but powerful legs, a strong arm and a keen understanding of the offense.
Yet, long before those factors came into play, the Normal Community High School senior had a brother to guide him.
“He’s pushed me a lot in my life,” Boddie said of Callen Boddie, who is six years older. “He always pushed me to be the best I can be. I’m here because of him.”
“Here” takes in a lot of territory. A dual threat quarterback, the younger Boddie was named a Class 7A all-stater by the Illinois Coaches Association. He also was selected as the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Now, he is the Pantagraph Player of the Year after running for 1,185 yards, passing for 1,326 and accounting for 37 touchdowns (24 rushing, 13 passing).
He traces it all to Callen Boddie, a 2013 NCHS graduate who was a three-year starting point guard in basketball. As a sophomore, the older Boddie helped the Ironmen place fourth in the 2011 Class 4A State Tournament. A wide-eyed Daylen watched as a fourth grader.
“That was my role model,” said Daylen, also a standout point guard. “I always wanted to be like him and be better than him. He wanted me to be better than him. He always pushed me to be better than he is. That’s my guy right there.”
He insists the two “will always be tight,” in part because their connection is not limited to athletics.
He will tell you his brother “made me a better man.”
“He told me things I shouldn’t do, things I should be doing and to be on top of my game in the classroom,” Daylen said.
The words helped mold an athlete who NCHS football coach Jason Drengwitz described as “one of the best players who’s ever worn the orange and black on a football field.”
Boddie had 2,365 yards of total offense as a junior with 36 touchdowns (19 rushing, 17 passing). In his two seasons as a starter, he accounted for 4,876 yards (2,431 rushing, 2,445 passing) and 73 touchdowns.
The Ironmen were undefeated in the Big 12 both years and went 18-3 overall.
“The great thing about him is he is so consistent,” said Drengwitz, the Ironmen’s former offensive coordinator who took over as head coach this year. “You knew what you were going to get every single day in practice and what you would get on the field on Friday nights.
“His athleticism speaks for itself. But it’s underrated how intelligent of a quarterback he is. He understands what we’re doing all the time. He put up some major numbers the last two years, but probably 90 percent of it was in the framework of our offense.”
As gaudy as Boddie’s numbers have been, some people get hung up on these: “5” and “8.” The muscular, 195-pounder is 5-foot-8. That is short by quarterback standards, particularly at the college level.
Boddie says he is open to playing running back or slot receiver in college.
“As long as I’m on the field, I really don’t care,” he said.
Or, he might play basketball if the right opportunity comes along. Like his brother, he is a three-year starter in that sport.
Drengwitz has encouraged college football coaches to “get beyond that (5-8) because he’s a special talent.”
“I feel like if I got that chance (as a college quarterback), I would really shock a lot of people,” Boddie said. “When I first started playing quarterback everybody was like, ‘He’s too short. He can’t see over the line.’
“But Coach D (Drengwitz) put his trust in me to be the best I can. That’s what happened … we did pretty well.”
Boddie led with his play, but also in a “quiet, subtle” way off the field, Drengwitz said.
Not one to yell, Boddie was more apt to put his arm around a teammate and talk calmly.
“He would build them up and give them confidence and get them moving,” Drengwitz said. “I think that goes a long way, especially coming from someone as talented as he is.”
Boddie said his nature is to “interact one on one instead of being loud,” adding, “I think it’s better being face to face with somebody.”
Opponents mostly saw Boddie from the back. He averaged 10.8 yards per carry as a junior and 8.8 this season.
Now, he is focused in on basketball and seeks to remain calm regarding his college options.
“I can’t be too anxious,” he said. “I know things are going to fall in place.”