DeKALB – Boomer Mays is entering is second full season as Northern Illinois' starting middle linebacker, and the junior is a rare breed in college football.
Mays, who is expected to be a key member of the Huskies defense, also spends time as the team's third-string long snapper.
In fact, Mays was recruited to NIU primarily as a long snapper by Jerry Kill's staff. However, he started getting reps at linebacker during camp as a true freshman, and the time kept going up from there.
Mays redshirted his first season in DeKalb in 2011, and started four games as a redshirt freshman, finishing with 82 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
"Really, like everyone else, high school to college, you have to adjust to the speed, you've got to learn the game," Mays said. "It's a different style. It was just a mental aspect. Finding people watching them, and the speed of the game, adapting to college football."
When talking about Mays' play, the one thing that stands out to Huskies linebackers coach Kevin Kane – who was a linebacker and long snapper himself at Kansas, is Mays' physicality.
"Boomer will hit you," Kane said. "He's got that old school physical mike linebacker mentality. Once he hits you he's done. He's just gotten smarter and faster and stronger as his years have progressed here."
As the team's starting middle linebacker, Kane said that when Mays speaks, the others listen.
"I think he's mastered our defense. I think he's able to get our guys lined up," Kane said. "The biggest thing is, he's stepped into that leadership role. Nobody's going to mess with Boomer. He's a former state champ wrestler. Boomer holds the court when he's talking, he just needs to talk a little more."
Mays still takes long snapping reps at the beginning of each practice. He started long snapping in junior high as a way to make it to varsity as a freshman at Eudora High School in Lawrence, Kansas.
He ended up playing varsity his freshman year anyways, as both a long snapper and a linebacker.
Looking back on things, he's glad he made the decision to take up snapping duties.
"That's probably what got me the extra attention," Mays said. "I was getting linebacker (looks) in high school. One of the things that a lot of coaches really like is if you can do multiple things, especially play special teams. That helped."