Fourth-round draft pick Evan Boehm picks out his equipment on his first day with the team on Thursday.
Evan Boehm, overgrown sixth-grader, must have been quite the sight on a soccer field.
The dream all the way back then was to be an NFL player, but his father, Royce, a high school football coach, wasn't ready to allow Boehm onto the gridiron.
"I begged," said Boehm, the Cardinals' fourth-round draft pick on Saturday, "and I pleaded. He didn't let me do it. And then he let my brother (play) in fifth grade. I was a little upset about that."
The football journey finally began in seventh grade, and much like a thoroughbred champing at the bit before a race, Boehm hasn't slowed down since.
Not many fourth-round draft picks are expected to compete for a starting job as a rookie, but Boehm will battle A.Q. Shipley for the Cardinals' first-string center spot this offseason. If history is any guide, he has to feel pretty good about his chances.
Boehm earned a verbal scholarship offer from Missouri in eighth grade and made the varsity squad as a freshman while playing for his dad at Lee's Summit West High School in Missouri. He started all but one game during his high school career, missing it due to injury as a senior.
"I hated sitting out that one time," Boehm said.
He was a top-flight recruit who committed to Missouri and made an immediate impression again. Boehm started at guard as a true freshman, and then shifted over to center for his final three seasons with the Tigers. Boehm made a school-record 52 straight starts, even though he was bothered by a high ankle sprain for much of his senior year.
"I looked at our trainers and said, 'Hey, you guys can do whatever you need to do to me, but there's no way I'm missing another game,'" Boehm said. "Was it bad at some points? Yeah, it was. But I went out there and tried to dominate my opponent just like I was healthy."
He will need to prove himself all over again at the NFL level, and Boehm sees parallels to his entrance at Missouri.
"I knew my place," Boehm said. "I knew where I was supposed to be. I sat in the back and did my job. That's what I've got to do here. I've got to earn the respect. It's just not given. I've got to go out and compete and work hard, day in and day out to learn this offense to get the respect and the trust of these guys."
Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden was a former teammate of Boehm's at Missouri, and the pair worked out together this spring as Boehm prepared for the draft. Golden joked about a reunion, but didn't think it would actually happen.
Then the call from the team came on Saturday, telling Boehm he was their fourth round pick. As Boehm hung up, Golden's number flashed on his cell phone.
"It came true," Golden said. "It's wild, man. It's crazy. We came into Mizzou at the same time, and we played on the best teams to ever play at Mizzou, I'd say. It was crazy, and now we're in the NFL. I know how great of a player he is and how hard of a worker he is, so yes, I'm glad he's on the team."
The pair faced off frequently in practice with the Tigers, so Golden knows what the Cardinals are getting on the field.
"He's one of those guys, man," Golden said. "He's a dog. I expect big things."
So do the Cardinals, and Boehm knows it. In his introductory press conference on Thursday, he was asked multiple times about grabbing hold of the starting center job immediately.
"I'm ready to come in and compete," Boehm said. "That's what I need to do. I need to come in, and I need to learn this offense, and I need to go down there and put my head down, put my nose in the dirt and start working."
When Boehm was on that soccer field as a pre-teen, he knew exactly what he wanted to do for a career despite never playing football in his life. He called the experience of joining the Cardinals "surreal" and admitted he is still trying to wrap his head around it all.
But when rookie minicamp begins on Friday, Boehm will be ready to work. It's the first day to prove his worth to his new team, and he's relishing the opportunity.
"I won a state championship in football, wrestling and then the discus my junior year of high school, and my discus was on my very last throw," Boehm said. "Those pressure situations, I love to be in those. I think that's where I excel the most, in those situations. I don't fear the pressure. I go attack it head on."
ROSTER AT 90 AFTER CUT
The Cardinals released guard John Fullington to get down to the 90-man roster limit in anticipation of rookie signings. He was on injured reserve all of last season with a knee injury.
The Cards' rookies -- including the 2016 draft class -- arrive for minicamp