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QB Luke Altmyer continues Rebel family legacy

QB Luke Altmyer continues Rebel family legacy

OXFORD, Miss. — We always say “Welcome to the Family” when a new recruit signs with Ole Miss, but one recent commit is already a member of Rebel football royalty, coming from a family deeply embedded in the history of the red and blue.

On December 4, Starkville High quarterback Luke Altmyer announced he would sign with Coach Lane Kiffin and the Rebels. Until November 30, Altmyer had been pledged to Florida State; however, much to Ole Miss fans’ joy, the four-star signal caller decommitted from the Seminoles, announcing four days later his intent to sign with the Rebels on December 16.

But few outside of Luke’s family know his connection to Ole Miss greatness: Luke is the second cousin of the legendary Arnold “Showboat” Boykin.

Showboat was responsible for perhaps one of the greatest individual performances in Egg Bowl history, scoring all seven of Ole Miss’ touchdowns en route to the Rebels’ 49-7 win over State in Starkville in 1951. And he did so on just 14 carries. Fourteen carries and seven TDs—not a bad ratio, there.

Luke’s late grandfather Don Boykin, himself an Ole Miss graduate and lawyer in Jackson for many years, and Showboat were first cousins; their fathers were brothers. By all accounts, Don and Showboat were as close as brothers, themselves.

Don Boykin (left) and Showboat Boykin were first cousins. 

Don passed away on August 24 of this year, before his grandson decommitted from Florida State, and Showboat preceded Don in death two years earlier on August 18, 2018.

One can only imagine how proud these two Rebels would be to see Luke continue the Boykin legacy in Oxford.

Luke’s parents, Betsy and Dr. Chad Altmyer, and his uncle, Ben Boykin, were kind enough to speak with The Rebel Walk about Luke’s family ties to Ole Miss.

“The day when Luke kind of publicly went forward with that commitment, I’ll be the first to say I got a little teary eyed a few times during the day,” said Ben.

Ben, in addition to Don, Showboat, and numerous cousins, is also an Ole Miss alum.

Although Luke’s grandfather did not know before he died that Luke would sign with Ole Miss, he was incredibly proud of him — regardless for which school he would eventually play.

“When he passed away, my dad knew Luke was committed to Florida State,” Ben said. “He would be equally as proud of his accomplishments, but more so that he’s an even better grandson than he is a football player,” Ben explained.

I think he was very proud of the way Luke conducted himself throughout high school and the way that he handled some of the notoriety that he achieved there. He would be proud that there is a legacy of people who demonstrate hard work and good character and those kind of things that are emblematic of the Boykin name.”

Luke’s uncle, Ben Boykin

When we asked Ben what he could tell us about Luke that we might not already know, he didn’t hesitate to focus on the young man’s leadership and character.

“I think people look inherently at a quarterback to lead,” he began. “And in Luke, they are going to have an individual they can confidently follow, on and off the field. It is going to be more than talk — it will be about walking that walk. He is a team-first guy, a fierce competitor. And I think that above all else, one of the hallmarks of a great leader is having great character.”

Luke Altmyer and his grandfather, Don Boykin (photo courtesy of the Altmyer family)

Ben credits Luke’s parents, his sister Betsy and her husband Chad, with raising their sons — including older brother Steele, a basketball player at Mississippi College, and Luke’s younger brother, Whit — in such a way that fosters that character.

“That goes back to his mom and dad,” Ben said. “I know their hearts. I know that throughout this (recruiting process) they were attempting to just solidify in Luke’s mind that they wanted him to be happy above all else.”

When we spoke with Luke’s parents the night before their son was to sign his National Letter of Intent, they both reiterated the importance to them of their children being happy in whatever school they choose.

“He grew up in Starkville, but we raised our kids to always do what’s best for them, so we just let the process play out on its own,” Betsy said. “As far as Ole Miss goes, I was raised that way but my kids were raised Mississippi State because that’s where we live and that’s where their dad works.”

Luke’s father is one of the team doctors for the Bulldogs.

“As far as Luke going to Ole Miss and me being State’s team doctor, that’s more business,” Chad explained.

But family is way more important than business. And whatever is best for Steele, Luke, and Whit, where they feel most comfortable is where they’ll succeed, because you can’t be successful unless you feel comfortable and you feel confident in what you’re doing. So obviously, that’s where he feels confident and successful. So we’re 100 percent behind him that’s for sure.

Dr. Chad Altmyer on Luke’s decision

The Showboat Legacy

Luke’s grandfather Don was rightfully proud of his first cousin Showboat and his record of seven touchdowns in a single game — a record that stood in the NCAA until it was broken by the legendary Jim Brown.

Showboat and teammates on the 1951 Rebels’ team that beat State in the Egg Bowl, 49-7, names of players pictured. (Photo courtesy of Julia Weber, daughter of Showboat Boykin)

It is still a league record, tied for first in the SEC. Seven rushing touchdowns in a single game is also an Ole Miss school record that may never be broken.

“Don was always so proud of Showboat Boykin, and he had all the stuff in his house, the newspaper clippings, so he would have definitely enjoyed Luke’s Signing Day more than anybody,” Chad said.

And you can bet Showboat would have loved seeing it, too.

Showboat Stories

With Luke’s signing coming just three days before Ole Miss traveled to Baton Rouge to take on LSU, it’s only fitting to share a Showboat story from his time playing the Tigers.

Showboat Boykin and his wife, Doll. (Photo courtesy of the Boykin family)

Luke’s Uncle Ben spoke with Showboat’s widow, Mary Taggart Boykin, known as “Doll,” and she tells this infamous story. The Rebels were headed on the road to take on the Tigers. Some of the LSU players had read an article in the Memphis newspaper about Showboat’s knee problems — and they decided to capitalize on that.

During the game, at the bottom of the pile, the Tigers would attempt to twist and further injure Showboat’s problem knee. In typical fashion, he politely warned one player that the knee they were going after was one of his sore knees, and that if he did it again he would retaliate.

Well, it happened again and reports are that Showboat hit the Tiger square in the mouth, knocking out some of his teeth. After doing so,  Boykin looked at him and simply said, “I told you that was my sore knee.”

A few times during Ben’s conversation with Doll, she communicated that Showboat “liked contact.” He first started out as a linebacker at Ole Miss and then switched over to running back. At times, however, as was more commonplace in those days, he was called upon to play both ways.

But it is his performance as a running back on that day in the 1951 Egg Bowl that is remembered most. In fact, it was such a dazzling display that an invite to the Senior Bowl followed as did his selection by the Detroit Lions in the 1952 National Football League Draft.

Showboat was participating in the Lions’ training camp when he received his orders to report for active duty in the United States Army. He would ultimately serve 20 years in the U.S. Army, including two tours in Europe, one in Korea, and one in Vietnam.

While commanding an artillery battalion in Vietnam, Lt. Colonel Boykin was awarded the Legion of Merit with an Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star for Valor, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and other service ribbons before his retirement in 1972.

‘If you make a name for yourself, best do it in your own home state’

Coming out of high school, Showboat was offered by Mississippi State and many other top schools, including Alabama and LSU.

He leaned on his high school coaches to help him make a decision. One in particular remarked to him, “If you make a name for yourself, best to do it in your own home state.”

Almost seventy years later, Showboat’s cousin and Don’s grandson, Luke, made a similar decision to stay in state — and there are few who would bet against him making a name for himself instate.

While Showboat was a very accomplished man — on the football field, the field of battle and in his professional life — Doll says at home, he just wanted to be Showboat and Daddy and was a humble man who rarely ever talked about his accomplishments.

“I think this is where Showboat and Luke are very much alike,” said Ben.

Luke is humble and unassuming and is defined by his character and integrity.

Ben Boykin

And while as a young boy, Luke might not have quite understood the full impact of his cousin Showboat’s Ole Miss career, he likely does now as he prepares to begin his own as a Rebel.

“I’m sure now it means something to him that he can relate to it and he feels a part of it,” Betsy noted. “You know, my daddy brought Showboat here to visit us. It’s been a few years ago, I would say probably four or five years ago, he brought him up here. And so they all got to hang out and visit. So that was a neat time,” she said.

“That’s a prideful thing, because that’s your family,” Chad added. “It really is your family. I mean, Luke is half Boykin.”

Both Betsy and Ben wanted to be sure folks know that just like the rest of the family, their dad’s top priority was that the kids are happy.

My daddy would have been super thrilled. But, you know, more importantly, he was always involved in the kids’ lives as far as who they are as a person, more than anything. When Luke was committed to Florida State, he supported him. He was all in if Luke was for Florida State. But no doubt he would have been super, super thrilled that it ended up the way it did.

Betsy Boykin Altmyer

Luke making an impact already

There’s no doubt Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby are also super thrilled that it ended up the way it did.

Kiffin made a point at his signing day press conference to express what Luke’s commitment to Ole Miss meant for the program and this year’s signing class.

“I think he’s got special talent,” Kiffin said of Altmyer.

He’s a natural leader. Really good family, good feet, great release, good arm-angle throws. I’m just real excited about him. I think you could see some of his leadership in the way that he recruited. People say what was the turn in recruiting? I think one was on-field performance, us playing well and showing our players having fun, the excitement, the uniforms, the energy, and the second thing was Luke turning. It became the cool thing to do, and he helped recruit these guys, too.

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on Luke Altmyer

Speaking of Luke’s family, one other important note worth mentioning is that Showboat isn’t the only member of the Boykin and Altmyer clan to have achieved athletic greatness.

Chad excelled on the baseball field for Mississippi College, where he served as team captain and played every position in the infield and pitched when needed. A four-year baseball letterman, Luke’s dad also was a standout on the Choctaws basketball team that in 1993 won the Gulf South Conference championship.

Not to be outdone by the men in the family, Luke’s mother is a national champion, having won three national cheerleading titles at Mississippi College.

Long, proud legacy

When Luke suits up for his first game and goes out on to the field at Vaught-Hemingway, he will continue the long, proud legacy of the Boykins at Ole Miss and the Altmyers at Mississippi College. You can bet Don and Showboat will be looking down and smiling, as will the family in the stands.

“I just think it’s kind of ironic how things have worked out,” said Betsy. “It is definitely God’s will, and that’s how we live our lives.

About The Author

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn's love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship--and continued as she watched Katie receive three degrees from Ole Miss, culminating with her Pharm D. in 2012. Evelyn, a member of the FWAA, USBWA and the NCBWA, has covered Rebel sports for numerous outlets. In addition to working for The Rebel Walk, Evelyn is a sports writer for a newspaper in Texas.

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