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Taylor Boggs has gone from walk on to Lions roster contender

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"I had a goal that I was going to the NFL," Taylor Boggs (65) said. Carlos Osorio/AP

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Taylor Boggs' college football career began without a helmet and with a detour to the Humboldt State strength and conditioning coach, Drew Petersen, in 2007.

It turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to him.

To understand how Boggs played himself into position to possibly make the Detroit Lions' 53-man roster, it starts there. Boggs described the 2007 experience -- Petersen said Boggs inquired about walking on to Humboldt State's team late and the school ran out of helmets -- as being cut. He was sent to work out with Petersen instead.

Boggs used that as motivation -- eventually making Humboldt State's team and becoming a dominant Division II offensive lineman. He accomplished that because his goal never wavered. It's a goal used to motivate himself when he started working with Petersen, who has become one of his best friends.

"I had a goal that I was going to the NFL," Boggs said. "And the coaches needed to know that I was serious about that."

Petersen said Boggs added 15-to-20 pounds by 2008, when Boggs became the starting center as a redshirt sophomore. By his senior season, he was a Division II All-American.

Another big change for Boggs came before that senior season -- and in some ways it rejuvenated Petersen's career, too. Boggs reached out to former NFL offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, who was starting an offensive lineman performance center. Bentley took Boggs as a student before Boggs' senior year at Humboldt State.

It was there his NFL goal became more tangible.

"He and another one of our offensive linemen embraced what LeCharles taught and had brought back a lot of what LeCharles was doing to our program," Petersen said. "And then it helped me evolve our program to help to get to a different level.

"Since then, more indirectly I communicate with LeCharles through Taylor, but Taylor has gone from being my student to being my teacher. And I mean that, no cliché intended."

Petersen said his visits to Bentley's facility in Arizona -- he'll go down there from time to time to see Boggs -- are better for his professional development than conferences he'll attend.

The relationship Boggs developed with Bentley had another side effect. During Boggs' time at Humboldt State, he developed a strong relationship with Petersen's son, Bryce. Bryce used to work out in the Humboldt weight room as a kid. Bryce looked up to Boggs, who was Humboldt's best offensive lineman at the time.

When Boggs made the NFL, he started bringing Bryce to Arizona in the offseason to hang out. Now, Bryce is a junior at McKinleyville (Calif.) High School. He's a 6-foot-2 offensive guard, weighing 290 pounds. And he already has a Division I offer from Idaho -- what both Boggs and Drew Petersen hope is the first of many.

Boggs, sitting in the Detroit Lions locker room Monday, called Bryce Petersen his protégé, although the relationship is more symbiotic now, although Drew Petersen said Bryce views Boggs as a role model.

"He's given me more than I've given him, honestly," Boggs said. "You see a guy who doesn't know any better willing to work and it reminds you that's what you need to do. You just keep working."

Not that Boggs actually needed that reminder.

He's been a worker his whole career. It's how he linked up with Bentley. It's how he's taken a Division II football career and turned it into an NFL one, first as an undrafted free agent with the Jets (although he ended up on injured reserve), two seasons with the Chicago Bears and now an impressive training camp with Detroit that has put him in the conversation for a roster spot.

But being through his particular career path -- one essentially starting in a college weight room instead of on a football field -- will make Saturday, final cut day in the NFL, just another day to him.

"I never obsessed over any of this," Boggs said. "I know that I can get better or get even. That's what I think of every day.

"I guess because my start in college was like that, it doesn't bother me in the pros."

Instead, Boggs said it is just all part of his process.