A contract extension from the Toronto Argonauts means more than a pay raise to star running back Cory Boyd. It means self-respect for a man used to sleeping on teammates' sofas, living off fast food and growing up without parents in a crime-ridden neighbourhood in New Jersey.
Boyd has been rewarded for his stellar rookie season in 2010 with a new deal that extends through the 2013 season. The 25-year-old will reportedly receive just shy of six figures a year - including a signing bonus - nearly doubling his rookie contract remuneration.
"I came up here [to Canada]with one American dollar, and now I have a lot more to be grateful for," Boyd said. "I want my organization to know that they didn't just help a player, they helped a person. They helped me get my dignity back."
In 2010, Boyd was second in the league in rushing yards, with 1,359, and scored eight touchdowns (six rushing, two receiving). He also tallied 363 receiving yards. Boyd led the CFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,722 and broke or matched several club records.
But he did it without taking care of his body, a proper diet or a consistent place to live. The 6-foot-1 running back ballooned from about 215 pounds to 240 by eating all the wrong things, and working out in the wrong ways, during his rookie season.
But this off-season, the former University of South Carolina player was one of the few Argonauts that didn't leave town for the winter, and he started working out with veteran Argos receiver Jeremaine Copeland.
"He's like a little brother to me - I think God brought us together for a reason," Copeland said. "He needed to see someone living a correct life, a married guy not out partying a whole bunch, He understands the profession now, and his spot on this team.
"He's had no one but his grandmother most of his life. He's from the 'hood, the real 'hood, too, where they kill people right across the street. So this success is so good for him."
Boyd has slimmed down over the winter, also with help from new Argonauts head athletic therapist Dave Wright. He said he's close to 215 pounds again and has changed his diet, opting for fruit, yogurt, protein shakes - food he rarely ate before. He has a hard time staying away from McDonald's, "but only for the chicken wraps" now, he laughed.
"Last year, I didn't have anybody to train with," Boyd said. "But this off-season, having Jeremaine around - someone who knows the business, someone who has been in the league. I learned how he stays so fit. I want to do everything fast, and he taught me to listen to my body and not try to act like I'm still in college."
Boyd was the first Argos running back since Michael Jenkins in 2001 to be named a CFL all-star. He reached 1,000 rushing yards faster than any running back in Argonauts history, doing so in just 11 active games.
"With one year under his belt, and the understanding of what is needed to train and condition for this league," general manager and head coach Jim Barker said in a statement, "we look forward to seeing the even greater things Cory is capable of - both on and off the field - in the seasons to come."