- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The first NFL game Jarrett Boykin attended was the Carolina Panthers’ home opener against Jacksonville during their 2003 Super Bowl run. He grew up a fan of wide receiver Steve Smith, Carolina’s all-time leading receiver.
Now Boykin hopes to make a name for himself with the Panthers.
Carolina signed the former Green Bay Packers wide receiver on Friday to a one-year deal.
A former star at Charlotte’s Butler High School, Boykin hopes to resurrect an NFL career that took a down turn after he suffered a groin injury last season.
He also is expected to contribute to special teams, having played all four special team groups for the Packers last season.
“Try to seize the moment,’’ Boykin said after signing.
Boykin was in position to seize the moment at Green Bay. After catching 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns in 2013, he entered last season as the No. 3 receiver. Then came the injury.
When Boykin was ready to return, he’d lost the No. 3 job to Davante Adams. When the Packers didn’t tender him an offer as a restricted free agent, he began job hunting.
When the Panthers showed interest, Boykin decided to return home to start over.
“They definitely said there will be opportunities,’’ Boykin said.
There are opportunities. Outside of Kelvin Benjamin, last year’s first-round draft pick, there isn’t an elite No. 2. Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery are the front-runners for the second and third spots, but neither are good enough to be considered a lock.
Boykin describes himself as a physical receiver, one that sets up defensive backs with his body. He prides himself on making the tough catch as his childhood hero Smith did.
“He was a small, scrappy guy, and he brought a lot of heart to the field,’’ Boykin said of Smith. “Being young, that’s the type of player you want to be.’’
Now Boykin has a chance to be that kind of player for his hometown team.
329dPat Yasinskas and David Newton