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Arnold L. Boykin, surrounded by his family, died peacefully Thursday at his home in Brandon. He was 89.
Football fans of a certain age will remember him better as Showboat Boykin. His name is forever engraved in Mississippi football history and, particularly, Egg Bowl history.
On Dec. 1, 1951, Boykin ran the football for all seven Ole Miss touchdowns in the Rebels’ 49-7 victory over Mississippi State at Starkville. That’s right: Showboat Boykin scored 42 points himself, a Southeastern Conference record that still stands 67 years later.
Boykin, a senior halfback playing his last college game, carried the ball 14 times – scoring on precisely half of those – for 187 yards. And here’s the kicker: He scored seven touchdowns on the same play, a delay through the middle of the State line.
Sadly, I never talked to Boykin about the most productive single game performance in Mississippi history, but I was lucky enough to hear the story once from the famous comedian Jerry Clower, who played defensive tackle for Mississippi State in that game.
“Yeah, ol’ Showboat scored seven touchdown and I remember the last one the best,” Clower said.
Why, he was asked.
“Because he stepped right on my big ol’ stomach right as he went in the end zone,” Clower replied.
The late Jimmy Lear was the Ole Miss quarterback that day. “You know,” Lear once told me, “Showboat scored all seven touchdowns on the same play, a trap play right up the middle of the line.”
It was by far the most productive game of Boykin’s football career. He spent most of his Ole Miss career on the defensive side of the football before moving to running back as a senior.
Arnold Hederman, writing in the next day’s Clarion-Ledger, described Boykin’s effort thusly: “Showboat Boykin reminded fans here of the Ole Mississippi River. He just kept rolling on …”
Boykin scored on runs of 21, 14 and 12 yards in the first quarter alone. In the second quarter, he scored from 13 yards out. His longest run, an 85-yarder in the third quarter, is still the sixth longest in Ole Miss history. His two fourth quarter touchdowns came on runs of one and five yards.
Boykin wasn’t running against a weak defense either. That State defense, led by future NFL great Joe Fortunato, was statistically the 12th best in the nation in 1951.
The performance led to Boykin being selected to play in the Senior Bowl all-star game and to his signing with the NFL’s Detroit Lions. He made the Lions roster the next summer just before he received his draft notice from the U.S. Army. He entered as a second lieutenant having gone through the ROTC program at Ole Miss.
Boykin made a career out of the Army, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Boykin was a native of Greenville, where he starred on championship football teams for Greenville High. As a senior, he led the old Big Eight Conference in scoring and helped Greenville to a perfect record, including a victory over Holy Cross on New Orleans in the New Orleans Toy Bowl.
In a 2001 interview with The Clarion-Ledger, Boykin said his Egg Bowl of 1951 feat wasn’t considered that big a deal at the time. “Nobody thought that much of it after the game,” he said. “We beat State, but we always did back then.”
Boykin’s 42 points in a single game also was an NCAA record at the time. You may have heard of the man who broke the record five years later.
The great Jim Brown, playing for Syracuse in his last collegiate game, scored 43 points on six touchdowns and seven extra point kicks.
A graveside service will be held for Showboat Boykin on Monday at Greenville Cemetery at 1000 S. Main St. in Greenville. Boone Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.