American Football Database
Tony Boles
Dallas Cowboys
Date of birth: (1967-12-11) December 11, 1967 (age 54)
Place of birth: Thomasville, Georgia, USA
Career information
Position(s): RB/KR
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
College: Michigan
NFL Draft: 1991 / Round: 11 / Pick: 291
 As player:
Dallas Cowboys
San Antonio Riders
Career highlights and awards
Honors: First team All-Big Ten (2x)
Big Ten Rushing Champion
Michigan Wolverines team MVP
Playing stats at

Tony Boles (born (1967-12-11)December 11, 1967) is a retired professional American football running back and kick returner who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). After starring for the Michigan Wolverines football, where he once led the Big Ten Conference in rushing, he went on to a scandal ridden life. His college football career was ended prematurely due to a knee injury. He has been sentenced to prison multiple times and placed in homes for addicts due to cocaine abuse.


Although Boles was born in Thomasville, Georgia and his family settled in Westland, Michigan when he was ten years old. He grew up in a predominately white neighborhood where he was one of only four African Americans in the entire student body at John Glenn High School. He had also attended Marshall Junior High School. He took a Caucasian woman to the high school prom, but was not allowed to enter her home. She had to pick him up for the prom.[1]


Boles played for the 1989 Rose Bowl Champions.

Boles starred for coach Bo Schembechler at the University of Michigan where he was twice named All-Big Ten on repeat conference champions in 1988 and 1989 and named the team most valuable player for the 1989 NCAA Division I-A football season.[2][3] These were Schembechler's final two seasons at Michigan.[4] With Boles, the team won the January 1, 1989 Rose Bowl, but with him on the sidelines they lost the January 1, 1990 contest.[5] Boles shared the 1988 Big Ten rushing title with Anthony Thompson. Boles won the title for conference games only, while Thompson won the title for all games played.[6] As a sophomore in 1988, he rushed for 1,408 yards (1,287 m), but during his junior season he suffered a season ending knee injury. Entering the final game before his injury he had accumulated 822 yards (752 m) rushing in nine games on 130 rushes, Schembechler was starting to support his Heisman Trophy candidacy:

Michigan tailback Tony Boles can run (can he ever!) but he can’t hide from the Heisman Trophy anymore. He’s finally got Bo Schembechler touting him for college football’s most glamorous honor and that’s never happened before. … ‘He’s (darn) good,’ Schembechler said. ‘You’re (darn) right. He’s averaging 6.3 yards (5.8 m) a carry. That’s not too shabby.’ … Boles, who last season rushed for 1,408 yards (1,287 m) and nine touchdowns, has 822 yards (752 m) and nine TDs this season. … ‘That’s the difference between Tony and some of the other backs we’ve had here. He was not a big track man. He was baseball and all-sports in high school.’[7]

During the 1989 season, his carries were somewhat limited due to a pinched nerve.[8] He was seriously injured late in the 1989 season and had arthroscopic surgery on his knee, while Leroy Hoard replaced him for the final 2.5 games.[9] In 1990, Boles attempted a senior season comeback as a wide receiver to no avail.[10] Boles compiled 10 100-yard games while rushing for 2,247 yards (2,055 m) in two years at Michigan. In addition to playing running back, Boles excelled as a kick returner where he accumulated 639 yards (584 m) and a touchdown on 25 returns for a 25.6 yards (23.4 m) per return average.[11] In 1990, Jon Vaughn and Ricky Powers carried the load at tailback in his place. In retrospect, Boles sometimes regrets not having gone to one of the historically black colleges and universities.[1] Before the injury he had been projected as a first round draft pick.[8] After the injury, he dropped out of school fell onto hard times.[12] He dropped out of classes because he says "didn't want to be crutching around campus" and he eventually stopped rehabbing his knee and became irregular with his workouts.[8]

Professional career

Boles, who was represented by agent Thom Darden,[8] was drafted in the eleventh round of the 1991 NFL Draft with the 291st overall selection by the Dallas Cowboys as part of Jimmy Johnson's rebuilding efforts.[13] He was part of a Cowboy draft class that included three first round selections (Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, and Kelvin Pritchett), eleven picks in the first four rounds and eighteen overall selections.[14] Boles was assigned rookie initiation duties of washing Emmitt Smith's Pathfinder, but instead of washing the car disappeared with it for two days while bingeing. He eventually tested positive and was released by the Cowboys.[1] The Cowboys placed him on the reserve non-football injury list in August 1991.[15] He then played a season with the San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football for most of a season until he got mixed up in criminal activity.[8] At first, he mysteriously disappeared from practice on a day of random drug testing.[16] Before the disappearance, his World League performance had enabled Boles to get signed as a free agent by the Cowboys in early April 1992,[17] but by June the team released him.[18]

Life after football

On November 11, 1994, Boles was arrested on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and petty theft and wound up in jail in Naples, Florida.[19]

Boles discovered at age 27 that he had not been reared by his biological father. He soon thereafter started experimenting with cocaine. After football ended, he worked various jobs such as construction and working at a grocery store. He then started selling drugs and then using his product. This led him to a series of arrests, prison stays, and homeless periods. In 2003, two former teammates tracked him down and set him up with a job at a car wash. However, Boles fell back into his criminal ways.[8] Boles was convicted of robbing an elderly couple and was sentenced to three to fifteen years in prison. He was released into a work program. He also found himself at the Elmhurst Home, Inc. substance abuse treatment center in 2006.[1][8] The residential treatment center has since 1972 been used to host about 100 recovering addicts at a time providing Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meeting places, military style roll calls, daily tasks, and progress logs.[8]

Physically, in 2006, Boles was described as starting to gray, missing two top front teeth and suffering from an arthritic knee. He stood 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) and 190 pounds (86 kg; 14 st). He had a 21-year-old daughter and kept in touch with his mother. His stepfather had died in 1994.[8]

Boles was arrested in Ypsilanti, Michigan on September 9, 2007 and pled guilty to one count of receiving and concealing stolen property. He was sentenced to serve two to five years in prison for receiving and concealing stolen property in violation of his parole in Washtenaw County Circuit Court. He had previously served six months in prison for unarmed robbery before he was paroled in 2005. Boles' most recent infraction occurred when with an outstanding warrant, he provided a false name to officers investigating why he was blocking traffic with a car they would find out had been stolen from Detroit, Michigan. He had been attempting to converse with sidewalk pedestrians while purchasing drugs.[20]

See also

  • Lists of Michigan Wolverines football rushing leaders


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Shelton, Steven Malik (May 2006). "The Nightmare Run of Tony Boles". Retrieved 2007-12-15.[dead link]
  2. "1988 Football Team". The Regents of the University of Michigan. 2007-03-31. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  3. "1989 Football Team". The Regents of the University of Michigan. 2007-03-31. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  4. "Michigan's Bowl Game History". The Regents of the University of Michigan. 2007-03-25. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  5. "Michigan's Bowl History" (PDF). University of Michigan & Host Interactive. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  6. "Big Ten Football: Annual Statistical Champions - Individual" (PDF). The Big Ten Conference. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  7. "Bo knows Boles can be candidate for Heisman," AP Article, 1989-11-15, retrieved 2007-12-15
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 Heuser, John (2006-05-07). "Boles battles beast on his back" (PDF). reprinted from Ann Arbor News. Associated Press Sports Editors. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  9. Wallace, William N. (1989-11-26). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Michigan Gains Rose Bowl Slot". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  10. Sisak, Michael (1990-08-26). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL '90; Lots of Volunteers for the No. 1 Spot". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  11. "Michigan Football Statistic Archive Query Page". Regents of the University of Michigan. 2003. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  12. "Tony Boles: A Cautionary Tale". 2006-05-12. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  13. "1991 NFL Player Draft". Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  14. "1991 Dallas Cowboys". Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  15. "TRANSACTIONS". The New York Times Company. 1991-08-21. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  16. Griffin, Tom (1992-04-20). "RIDERS.GLORY S.A. Rides out a storm to a Glorious goose egg". San Antonio Express-News. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
  17. Fisher, Mike (1992-04-02). "Cowboys confirm signing lineman, lose Hendrix to 49ers". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
  18. Cowlishaw, Tim (1992-06-14). "Cowboy's Roster: Whose Number Is Up? - Uncertainty falls on offensive line, defense". The Dallas Morning News. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
  19. Ward, Julie (1994-11-22). "Martina, Chris in tune to make return in 1995". USA Today. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
  20. Aisner, Art (November 3, 2007). "Ex-U-M football star Boles to serve 2-5 years in prison". Ann Arbor News. Michigan Live LLC. Retrieved December 17, 2010.