Then late last season Boston discovered that the accident had resulted in minor nerve damage in his right leg, which made it increasingly difficult for him to flex his foot. In the off-season he stayed in Phoenix for physical therapy and weight training instead of working out in South Florida with Moss and Moss's fellow Minnesota Vikings wideout, Cris Carter, as he had done previously. Boston worked with Cardinals trainer Charles Poliquin, who helped strengthen Boston's lower back for increased speed and explosiveness and put him on a lifting regimen that helped him put on 30 pounds.
Boston also trained with Arizona's new receivers coach, Jerry Sullivan, three times a week, sometimes in 110� heat. He studied tape of other wideouts, and on the field he ran the same route as many as 15 times in a row to satisfy Sullivan, a perfectionist whose candor and sincerity appealed to Boston. "I think a lot of people kissed David's ass to get him to play," Sullivan says. "I wasn't going to beg him to be the best. He had to want it for himself."
"Jerry hammered me," Boston says. "He taught me to make all patterns look alike at the start and to stare down defensive backs when I was setting them up. What I liked most was that he prepared me for every situation I face. When I'm on the field, I always feel comfortable."
Many coaches in the Cardinals' organization noticed that Boston was maturing over the summer. He even listened to his father's advice to cut out the showboating. David had started talking trash in college because, he says, "my respect for my opponents wasn't very high, and I thought the game was only about my winning the battle with the guy across from me." By the start of the 2001 season he understood that the NFL "is about opinions, and once people make up their minds about you, it's hard to change them. I didn't want people to think I didn't have class."
This season Boston has had only one slipup, during a Dec. 9 game against the Washington Redskins. After making a tackle, linebacker LaVar Arrington shoved Boston, who responded by flipping the ball at the defender. Each player drew a personal foul and a $5,000 fine.
"He's definitely not getting into as many spats as he used to," says Eagles safety Brian Dawkins. "Before, his temper would take him out of the game, and he would start getting into verbal sparring matches all over the field. We played him twice this year, and he never got into that."
Adds Byron, speaking for himself and his wife, "We always try to make sure he knows the right thing to do. We stressed to him that the most important decisions he'll make will come early in his career, because those are the ones he'll be remembered for."
Although David is excelling, he still takes plays off and, in the eyes of Cardinals general manager Bob Ferguson, needs to start catching every pass in practice. "That's what players like Jerry Rice do," Ferguson says.
When he returned home after the Raiders game a few weeks ago and watched highlights of his touchdown on SportsCenter, Boston laughed upon seeing footage of himself as an Ohio State sophomore scoring against Michigan and taunting Woodson on his way to the end zone. When he scored against Woodson this time, however, Boston was shown simply dropping the ball before shouting into the air and embracing his teammates. "Last year I would've done something to rub it in," he says, "but when I saw myself beating someone as good as Woodson, I knew I was making a statement. I'm starting to show people what I'm really capable of."