Benny Boyd’s path to his new position at EIU |

Love it! This article was probably intended to be just a feature on a local guy following his dream. However, this article should be required reading for those looking to make connections, get into, or move up in the coaching profession.

And kudos to former Ops Nation guest, Northwestern’s Cody Cejda, for stepping up to help this young coach.

Dixon native Benny Boyd has longed to move up the college football coaching ladder, and his latest step is bringing him closer to home.

Boyd recently accepted a position to be the special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach at Eastern Illinois University, a Division I FCS program located in Charleston. He had been the special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach at Central Washington, a Division II program in Ellensburg, Wash., for the past four seasons.

He helped the Wildcats to an 8-3 mark in 2018.

“I am very excited,” Boyd said. “It’s an opportunity
to coach at the Division I
level and get in on the ground floor of a program that is going to do some great things.”

The wheels were set in motion for Boyd to move from the West Coast to the Midwest when former EIU coach Kim Dameron was fired on Nov. 18. The Panthers were 3-8 this past season, and 27-30 in five seasons under Dameron.

On Dec. 9, Eastern Illinois hired Adam Cushing as its head coach. Cushing had been an assistant at Northwestern the past 15 seasons, and Boyd had a roundabout connection there.

Going into the 2018 American Football Coaches Association convention in Charlotte, N.C., Boyd was urged by Tim Heffelfinger, a Sterling native and a scout for the New England Patriots, to get to know decision makers, or at least those close to decision makers, at the collegiate level.

At the convention in Charlotte, Boyd had about a half-hour chat with Cody Cejda, the Director of Football Operations and Strategy at Northwestern, and a person who works closely with head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Cejda explained there was likely nothing at Northwestern for Boyd at that time, but to stay in touch. Boyd followed up with a thank-you letter, occasional emails prior to and during the season, and at the conclusion of Central Washington’s season, an updated résumé.

A few days after Boyd sent Cejda his information, Cushing was hired at EIU, and he had a coaching staff to fill. Cejda contacted Boyd and hooked him up with Chris Bowers, the Director of Player Personnel at Northwestern who was also headed to EIU to be Cushing’s defensive coordinator.

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