Re’quan Boyette remembers his first college football game. It also will be the site of his next football game as the new outside receivers coach at East Carolina.
Boyette came to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadum as a freshman at Duke on Sept. 3, 2005. That day also marked the first contest for Skip Holtz as coach of the Pirates.
It wasn’t Boyette’s first trip to ECU by any means. He had seen his uncle, Shaun Rose, an offensive lineman out of Hunt High School in Wilson, play for the Pirates in 1999 and 2000.
“It’s amazing how God works in just bringing things full circle for me,” Boyette said on Monday, just over a month after being named to Mike Houston’s staff. “My first college game being at ECU and playing against Chris Johnson and that squad of the guys that they had, not knowing who they were at the time.
“But after a while, realizing who Chris Johnson was … I did know who he was that day. He kicked our butt. And that was a game that I actually played in. It was my first college football game I actually played in as a freshman. So, I was excited about that. And obviously, being back down here, excited for my family to be there. It was a great experience.”
Boyette and the Blue Devils were on the short end of a 24-21 score on that sunny afternoon in 2005. Johnson had 20 carries for 65 yards and four catches for 48 yards. Johnson was a first-round draft pick by Tennessee in 2008 and ran for 9,651 yards in a 10-year NFL career.
Boyette returns to ECU after nine seasons on David Cutcliffe’s staff at his alma mater.
“I was excited when all this came about just because I know the history here,” Boyette said, “I know the pride. … For me, it was like a dream come true almost. And I didn’t even know it was a dream.”
A unique name
Boyette goes by a unique middle name.
“People think that Re’quan is my first name,” he said. “My first name is actually Martinez.
“That’s something that I joke with people all the time is that if you really know me then I ask you, ‘What’s my real name?’ And then they’ll be able to tell me. But Re’quan is just … There’s no story behind it. My mother(Tonya), she liked the name. I believe a friend of hers had the name Re’quan or something or even my aunt named me. There’s that story. But nothing real crazy to it. Just a little Wilson name.”
Boyette played on the high school level at Fike, which also produced legendary Pirate running back Carlester Crumpler. Boyette earned a quick promotion to the Golden Demons varsity as a freshman. He helped Fike to an Eastern 3-A championship in 2002 with nine straight wins after an 0-4 start.
Era of success at Duke
As a running back at Duke from 2005 to 2009, Boyette had well over 1,000 rushing yards.
He joined the Blue Devil coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 2012. He was named running backs coach at Duke in 2013 and served in that capacity for eight seasons. He became wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator in 2021.
While coaching at Duke, the Blue Devils made six bowl trips. Duke had not won a bowl game since topping Arkansas, 7-6 in the 1960 Cotton Bowl when the Blue Devills edged Wisconcin, 44-41, in overtime in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2015.
Boyette also helped guide Duke to bowl wins in 2017 and 2018.
“To be able to have that success, that goes a long way.” Boyette said. “And it went a long way just as a player, and then a coach. … Just being on both sides of the spectrum when it came to building a program to where Coach Cut got it and had it. … I was a sponge with him and I just tried to soak up every bit of knowledge that he has, … He’s awesome.
“That time with him that I spent is crucial in my coaching career because of the legend that he is and who he is when it comes to offensive football, defensive football, special teams and just combining the whole picture of what the complete football game is and what a complete football program should look like.
“I just want to be able to … do whatever it is that we need to do here at ECU to keep this thing rolling and win.”
Boyette played under and later coached with Scottie Montgomery at Duke. Montgomery struggled to a 9-27 mark at ECU after a poorly-conceived coaching change initiated by former athletic director Jeff Compher.
Montgomery was running backs coach at Indianapolis in 2021. The Colts were second to Philadelphia in rushing yards in the NFL.
“Scottie, first off, as a person is an awesome man, father, friend, brother,” Boyette said. “Whatever title he holds, he’s awesome at it. He works at being personable with people. I love him to death. Take the football portion out of it, take everything out of it, I love him to death. He’s one of my biggest mentors. He, Cut and D.J. Jones would be three of my biggest mentors that I looked to. I actually just talked to Scottie (Tuesday). Just who he is, I love him. And obviously, we had a relationship just being a Duke alum, himself. He coached me when I was playing. I played running back but he was a coach there for my years at Duke.
“We have a long, long history and a very great relationship. It’s something that I cherish. But as a football coach, he’s phenomenal. A lot of what I know, a lot of what I’ve learned, has been from him. I obviously transitioned into the wide receiver position. For me, he’s one of the best wide receiver coaches and now being one of the best running back coaches in the NFL. So, the knowledge that I have from him and the different things that I’ve gotten from him and added my own twist to it and my own thoughts and my own philosophy,
“I feel very confident. That’s why I was confident within the transition from running backs to receivers. It goes a lot to Scottie and a lot to Coach Cut. The information that I was able to obtain from them and different things I was able to apply to being comfortable with knowing that, I’m a good football coach and not just a running backs coach or this particular position coach. Just being able to spread your wings and be able to be a good coach.”
Boyette has hit the ground running on the recruiting trail.
“It’s been a good bit of recruiting,” Boyette said. “Enriches the blood line, which I’m excited about. That gives me a chance to be in purple. It gives me a chance to get in front of people when we were out on the road. It just gives me a chance to be engulfed in our culture and who we are and what we want to do from a recruiting standpoint. Once everything happened, I came up on a Thursday, we had a staff meeting and then that Friday and the next two weeks after that we were on the road recruiting.
“We just got back off the road about … What? Two or three weeks ago or so now. We’re still in the mode of recruiting and ironing out anybody we saw during the last cycle and then trying to find anybody that we can try new that we need to evaluate and figure out if they can help our program.
“A big good bit of it has been recruiting and now we’re moving into a little bit of the offense and me learning the offense; just getting that down pat.”
Boyette has been assigned specific recruiting areas.
“I have Raleigh, Durham, Wilson and Nash county areas here in North Carolina,” he said. “I’ll have south Georgia. … I have a portion of South Carolina as well. Those will be the spots that I’ll be hitting.”
The talent-gathering process
Boyette talked about the recruiting process.
“First things first is can he play?” Boyette said. “Let me go there. First things first is the talent. … And I think it goes hand-in-hand with character. Within that time, who is he? And where did he come from? What kind of character does he have? What kind of person is he? What kind of student is he? I think all those factor into the success that a player can have.
“And then moving from there, you’re talking about all the things that you can’t coach. How well does he run? How well does he catch? How well does he get in and out of breaks? How productive is he when he does have the ball in his hands? How well does he play without a ball in his hands?
“A lot of people like to watch just cut-ups. I think watching a game is one of the biggest things and tells a good bit of who the person is that you’re recruiting when they don’t have a football in their hands because they’ll be a star and put all the highlights up when they’re scoring touchdowns and doing different things but if you love the game you’re going to be flying around no matter what. I think that talent, character and then the effort with which they play and the relentless toughness that they play with, I think, is key when you’re talking about somebody being a Pirate and helping us win.”
The receiving corps has taken some hits since the Pirates went 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the American Athletic Conference in 2021. Tyler Snead opted to prepare for the NFL draft and C.J. Johnson was suspended from the program.
Boyette has been working to become familiar with the personnel in his position group.
“I’ve been doing a big bit of seeing their catches and everything and watching the film of them and everything,” Boyette said. “So I have a good idea of who guys are and where we need to improve, where we are good. Just really trying to take it from there.”
Boyette talked about similarities between his former and current head coaches.
“I think one of the ways in which they’re similar is they both care about people,” Boyette said. “They both care about who you are, but also who their players are and their lives. I think that’s key when we talk about the success of a head coach. Coach Houston has been very successful; he and Coach Cut. Obviously, having that success from a winning standpoint, I think, is key. And then being able to change the program.
“They both are program builders. I think that’s a great characteristic when you’re talking about a head coach. Building culture and building pride and building things the way that you want them. Make sure that there’s culture within the staff. I think those are all things that they are similar with.
“They both operate the same way. Both are a joy to be around. They have an aura and a presence about them that when they walk into a room you know they’re the head coach. You know that for sure, 100 percent, without a doubt. But the way that they operate and the way that they carry themselves, I think, is much more personable than what some people might think from a head coach. What I’m trying to get at — I don’t see a lot of differences, so I’m excited about that.”
Decline at Duke
After going 8-5 in 2018, Duke was 5-7 in 2019, 2-9 in 2020 and 3-9 in 2021. The decline led to Cutcliffe’s departure and Boyette’s arrival at ECU.
“Consistency is one of the hardest things to do and be,” Boyette said. “There’s a lot that goes into it. A lot of factors that go into that consistency. But when you do find that consistency, then that’s where the success comes from, the sustained success comes from. Just from a consistency standpoint, things kind of got out of whack. Nothing here, nothing there. And then they made a decision and went the way that they went. But it’s all good.”
Cutcliffe reportedly may join the staff at Texas as an advisor. Boyette is excited about adding to ECU’s ascension after the Pirates had their first winning season since 2014.
Boyette has a four-month old son, Mathias. It’s too early to tell about his potential as a player.
“We have a good bit of time,” Boyette said. “I think the game will be changed drastically by then, when he gets to high school. Ain’t no telling what we’ll be playing then.
“But I’m all in. He wants to play the game, I’m all about him playing football. I do believe that football has afforded a lot of people a lot of different opportunities. It afforded me a lot of different opportunities. I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t have the things that I have. I wouldn’t have been able to see the things that I’ve seen in life probably if it wasn’t for the game of football.”
ACC vs. AAC
Boyette has seen defenses in the ACC for a decade and he is getting a feel for what defenses in the AAC look line.
“I tell you what, just watching some of this film, the defenses are not too far off from each other,” Boyette said. “I was watching Cincinnati today, watching UCF and just different teams. Houston. Just different teams in the league. And I know they’ll be leaving at some point, but the defenses are not too far off.
“I see really, really good defensive teams. Really, really good defensive coaches in this league and we’re a pretty good offensive unit, so I’m excited about going out and attacking .. and doing what we need to do in the AAC.”