Tag:Michael Boley
Posted on: March 13, 2009 2:41 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2009 3:00 pm

New Giant Boley's Story Hits Close To Home

Big Blue's newest linebacker has a son with Autism. Daily struggles, sleepless nights and raising awareness are all things Mr. Boley and I have in common...     

On February 28th, Giants General Manager Jerry Reese inked free-agent Michael Boley to a five-year contract. As excited as I am about the much needed passion and ability Boley brings to the linebacker unit , there's another passion in his life that means just as much - if not more - to him than football. It's his mission to raise funds, awareness and hope for those affected by Autism. While I can't relate to Boley's relationship with football (my football experience is limited to a single lackluster season in pee-wee league, retired at the ripe old age of 9), I can more than relate to his relationship with his son, Mikey.

My son, Jimmy, has Autism. From what I've been able to research on Boley's son, it seems little Mikey's Autism isn't quite as "severe" as Jimmy's. I use quotes for the term "severe" because people with Autism are like snowflakes; no two are exactly alike (I'll place quotes around any term I feel I'm using only for lack of a better one). The dynamic range of characteristics and issues associated with Autism is mind-boggling. Some will eat anything while others have diets limited to 10 or 12 different food items. Linguistically their speech can be fluent but quirky, extremely limited or repetitive, or completely non-existent. Some can dress themselves while others can't. Some can play an instrument or beat world champion gamers at Madden NFL '09, while others haven't mastered the ability to use a fork and knife. 

My son? Jimmy learned to swim the length of our pool - underwater - when he was 7 years old. He's been able to navigate computer games and learning programs at lightning speed since the age of 6. After years of hard work, we were finally able to help him become fully toilet trained this past summer. When was 10 years old. 

Every day brings another challenge; many of which have nothing to do with teaching your child to read or improve living skills. There's battles with school districts for services and placement, which can become so ugly that legal intervention is necessary. Long-standing relationships with friends (and even family members) might suffer, depending on their ability to deal with children of this nature. And unless your child has the "mildest" forms of Autism, an elevated level of attention and thought must be given to things that most would consider relatively superficial; like putting your child on a school bus, whether a playground is fenced in, or walking across a mall parking lot. 

These are things that Michael Boley deals with every day, all the while maintaining a high level of professional committment to his performance on the football field. 

Michael Boley grew up in Alabama. In 2000, his girlfriend Kelly Lankford gave birth to Mikey. According to Boley, he began seeing signs of Mikey "behaving differently than most kids his age" during his frequest visits with his son. In 2003, as he was going through the process of being drafted by Southern Mississippi, Boley filed for and received primary custody of Mikey. The judge ruled that Boley and his new wife, Chantelle would be better suited to provide Mikey educational and developmental opportunities. But Michael and Chantelle were not prepared for what was to come; Mikey's constant screaming, temper-tantruming and hitting became more than the Boleys - and the revolving door of caretakers who came and went - could handle.

Home life began to improve when the Boleys eventually moved to Dacula, Georgia and enrolled their son in a public school that had facilities to work with autistic children. Chantelle - who happened to be a pediatric special needs caretaker, helped Michael learn sign language to better communicate with Mikey. In 2006 - with help from Falcons senior director of player development Kevin Winston - they were able to hire an in-home caretaker specializing in autistic children (who still works with Mikey, and the two have apparently built a tight bond). The Falcons front office also helped out by securing placement for Mikey at the Marcus Institue in Atlanta, which specializes in teaching kids with developmental and neurological disorders. It was at the Marcus Institute where Boley was informed that Mikey would officially be diagnosed as autistic; two years earlier, when Mikey was 5 years old.

"He would have been a whole lot better a whole lot further ahead, if he'd got it say when he was a year and a half to two years." Boley said back in 2007. "He's better than when I got him... He didn't speak at all when we got him. He has his good days and bad days. A bad day is when he hits and won't listen. A good day is when he pretty much follows the rules and just has fun. He's usually pretty happy".

And now - after four seasons with the Falcons - Michael Boley won't be able to hang his jersey in the Georgia Dome locker room anymore. And another unavoidable eventuality; he probably won't be hanging his hat in Dacula for very long.   

His new job is located in East Rutherford, and uprooting his son from his home in Dacula will undoubtedly be a concern that requires a number of major decisions. The Boleys are no longer married (Michael was arrested and charged with assaulting Chantelle on May 3rd of last year), but even though she's been living out of state, Chantelle remains a consistent presence in Mikey's life. For anyone who isn't aware, routine and consistency are an absolute necessity for a special needs child. Especially an autistic child, where coping with society and simply getting through day-to-day tasks can feel like massive stimulation overdose; a steady foundation or "home base" is essential for them.

Should Boley retain custody of Mikey, real estate value and location won't necessarily be his primary concerns; school districts -specifically their special needs programs and the services they have to offer - will be. Services are rights, plain and simple. Yet you would be amazed at the stark contrasts between different school districts; not only in what services they're willing to provide, but in how hard they'll force parents to fight tooth and nail for everything "afforded" to them. Unfortunately, it's all too common to find one district that's accomodating, supportive and professional - while it's neighboring district next door is only concerned with budgets and maintaining the 'bottom line". I like to refer to those districts as "Circus Acts", because they force special needs families to jump through hoops for their services, while they walk the high-wire of fiscal reallocation and educational politics.

However the situation works itself out, there's no doubt Boley will continue his fine work in raising funds and awareness for autism. Boley has participated in the annual Georgia Walk for Autism event, as well as hosting fundraisers for the Marcus Institute and Easter Seals of Northern Georgia. In 2008 he organized and hosted The Michael Boley Step Show For Autism with Cardinals defensive end Travis LaBoy, who's brother is autistic. Coincidentally, the Super Bowl Step Show  took place in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona - just five days before his new team defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

While he needs to hold himself accountable and work through for the more publicized aspects of his personal life, I for one can only wish Boley and his son the best of luck in getting through this transition. I've lived through it, and I know the frustrations. Maybe Michael Boley will be one of the tens of thousands faces seen walking the boardwalk at Jones Beach this fall for Autism Speaks

I know I will be.


SourcesAP (George Henry, 11/9/2007); Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Steve Wyche, 10/11/06); Giants.com (transcript, 3/3/09); 11Alive.com (Donna Lowry, 4/14/2008)








Posted on: March 8, 2009 9:28 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2009 10:03 am

NYG: Is Antonio Pierce one of Reese's Pieces?

 Should this man be worried?

Wheelin' on defense may fuel dealin' for offense. I say Antonio's odd man out.

It's been quite an active couple of weeks on the defensive side of the ball for General Manager Jerry Reese; at least newly hired defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan will have his fair share of lineman and linebackers to rotate in and out of the lineup. But even with the number of Giants defenders jumping into the free agency pool, you can't help but wonder if signing these three relatively young players - all which appear to have tremendous upside - isn't greasing the skids for a big trade for one of the few big-name recievers still out there as rumored to be on the block.

At the end of February, a number of players declared free agency; among them were two defensive ends, Renaldo Wynn and Jerome McDougal. McDougal was a stop-gap measure following the season-ending injury to Osi Umenyiora last year against the Jets (yet another devistating loss in another meaningless pre-season game against the Jets. The Giants should seriously look into changing this annual pre-season matchup because it's beyond creepy the sheer coincidence that someone always seems to go down for the count in this game). He was inactive for 12 games, and did very little in the four games he suited up for (1 tackle, 1 assist). Wynn had been signed in the off-season as a backup to Justin Tuck, who was annointed the starting job upon the retirement of Micael Strahan.

Assuming that Umenyiora and Tuck are back at full strength for the upcoming season, it would be understandable to move on and replace Wynn and McDougal with younger, healthier talent . The other key defensive names on the free agent - R.W. McQuarters and James Butler - are not going to make or break the team this season. Even though James Butler had some solid outings in 2008, there's no way he's going to beat out Kenny Phillips or Michael Johnson for a starting job at safety, especially since Johnson was able to shift to the SS position with great success when Butler missed a couple of games. Reese also recognized the sounds of Father Time's chimes and cut elder statesmen Sam Madison and Sammy Knight. Zzzzz.... no loss that can't be recovered. 

So then comes the obvious but essential question: Why Rocky Bernard, Chris Canty and Michael Boley?

 Chris Canty        Michael Boley         Rocky Bernard

Boley had a great campaign in 2007 that should have resulted in a Pro Bowl appearance, but hit the skids a bit last season under the Atlanta Falcon's new coaching staff. Chris Canty is another player that has had a productive career that struggled a bit last season due to some nagging injuries and a few undoubtedly annoying distractions in Dallas. Both are entering their 5th season, while Bernard is heading into his 8th. But Bernard (defensive tackle), Boley (an outside linebacker) and Canty (a defensive end) appear to create a strange situation... Chase Blackburn, Gerris Wilkinson and rookie Bryan Kehl all covered the weakside LB position last year, and the duo of Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield are already entrenched between the aformentioned Tuck and Umenyiora up on the line.

Jerry Reese has to be thinking about the way the pass rush and tackling performance declined week after week as the season progressed. Great ideas and innovative blitzing packages that can't be executed due to exhaustion and injuries remain... well, they just remain great ideas. There's no question that the gauntlet of teams the Giants faced mid-season (Steelers, Cowboys, Eagles, Ravens, Redskins, Panthers) took it's toll on them physically and mentally - more so than the Plaxico Burress circus did.  Fred Robbins is 32 and entering his 10th season; without a doubt he lost steam by the time the Giants hit the playoffs. The same goes for Justin Tuck, who played through alot of pain during the last few weeks.

It's quite possible that Bernard could compete for - and win - the starting job from Robbins. Worst case scenario, whoever lands on the losing end of that spot becomes an experienced, motivated situational player that can provide a lot of rest and recuperation time to the starters. Throw in Canty as a compliment to Justin and Osi, and this makes an already formidable unit more talented, more flexible and - most importantly - deeper and healthier.

Or, Reese pulls the trigger on a deal for Braylon Edwards or Anquan Boldin.

The buzz around town has been a trade to the Browns involving Mathias Kiwanuka. According to New York Daily news writer Ralph Vacchiano, "That is definitely not happening, according to several sources. I think that rumor just grew out of fans (and media) trying to figure out what the Giants are going to do with their surplus on the D-line". Besides, Kiwanuka was doing a solid job at the outside linebacker position until asked to move (once again) to DE following (once again) the Umenyiora injury. The Giants Organization has had a crush on Kiwanuka since the day they drafted him, and I don't suspect they'd be looking to end the relationship - even for a stud reciever who can "give them what they need".  

As a Giants fan, I have to believe that Jerry Reese is actively pursuing a deal with one of these two teams, for one of these two receivers. And the only way he can swing a deal without completely dismantling his drafts over the next two years is two include a viable defensive player or two. But it's not going to be Kiwanuka, Tuck or Umenyiora. Fred Robbins is getting up there in age and has weight issues, on top of the injuries he's suffered the past two seasons. The secondary is strong, but not very deep right now... eeny... meeny... miney...

And now,  my thoughts on Antonio Pierce.

Call me crazy. I've always been someone who thinks ahead to stay ahead. Sometimes that leaves quite an omelett on my face, and in the interest of saving time I always wind up missing some sort of "landmine" right in front me. There's also the possibility - and this is pure speculation on my part -  that Antonio Pierce could be a moving part in all this. 

Look at the situation for what it is. First of all, Pierce will be 31 years old in October. To date, the Giants haven't opened themselves up to discuss a contract extension with Pierce, who's $26-million deal expires at the end of the 2010 season. Pierce has been vocal about how ticked-off he is regarding the situation. Back in August, Pierce spoke outside of the Giants locker room, "I've been here four years and I sense that sometimes here. And it has nothing to do with financial stuff. I'm just talking about strictly as a football player, as a teammate, as an employee of the Giants. I don't know. I just get that sense. It's just the way people approach me. Obviously there are some comments, like 'Are you one of the guys? Or are you just a guy?'.

Pierce continued, "It's not about wanting to redo your contract, it's about wanting to end your career somewhere... I don't plan on playing just three more years. That doesn't mean you want to make $7 million or $8 million or some crazy pay raise. You want the security that you're going to be here. I don't want to play for no other team. And it ain't about 50 cents or a million dollars. It's about appreciation. It's not always about 'X' amount of dollars. It's about letting you know that I'm your guy."

To this day, The Giants have not told Pierce whether or not he's their "Guy". And to me, that means something. Keep in mind, Pierce said this in August - before the season began. Before he was getting beaten regularly on coverage, before he looked slow defending the pass over the middle. He was burned by Brian Westbrook, and he was burned by DeAngelo Williams. He was always banged up in some way shape or form, and yet still found the time to be out at 2 O'Clock in the morning partying with Plaxico Burress and Ahmad Bradshaw the night before the team was heading to Washington to face the Redskins. 

Not enough trouble to grab headlines or get suspended, but enough disappointment to change an Organization's view of you as a leader.

Yes, Pierce seems to be the emotional leader of the defense, but 2008 may have pushed Giants brass over to a more concrete position known as "let's wait and see" when it comes to Antonio's future with the Giants. In my book, the "let's wait and see" approach usually means you should get your resume together. And anyone who watched the Giants consistently last year can attest to the fact that Chase Blackburn wasn't much of a dropoff at middle linebacker. At least if they were being honest they could.

Can Blackburn, Boley and Kiwanuka hold the fort? Maybe they can. Maybe the Giants are hoping that Arizona or Cleveland will look at Pierce as an emotional leader that has two years left on a contract that is relatively inexpensive to what a free agent would cost. Perhaps you keep Fred Robbins... and throw in a young, promising tackle like Jay Alford as part of a deal as well? Add a first round draft pick and perhaps a 4th round pick, and you just might have something a general manager for Cleveland or Arizona would lose sleep over.  

The "denuemont"...

Today I cleaned out my refrigerator and found an unopened tub of cream cheese way in the back, on the bottom shelf. I'm estimating that I bought it sometime in early January, and it just so happened that today was the expiration date. For some reason, I popped the top, peeled back the protective plastic cover and took a whiff. It smelled perfectly fine... so I threw it right in the trash can. Not because it went bad, but because I realized I must not have wanted it all that much - even though I'd spent the money for it. I had pretty much decided to throw it out the moment I saw the expiration date, but I still wanted to check to see if it was still viable. I have no idea why.

Coaches and general managers make statements every day, and most of them have extremely short shelf life. Jerry Reese has said that the Giants would be just fine if they started the season with Steve Smith, Domenick Hixon and Mario Manningham; Amani Toomer is on the market and the senior circuit of the secondary is out looking for work. After signing Rocky Bernard and beefing up both the defensive end and linebacker positions, there's only one starting spot left on Big Blue's depth chart with an expiration date that the front office needs to be concerned about. It may be expendable, and yet at the same time viable.



References: NY Daily News - Ralph Vacchiano article from Saturday, August 30th 2008  /  "The Blue Screen: Live Chat from March 5th 2009.





The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com