Boulware nearly didn’t play football

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware (10) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to imagine Ben Boulware not playing football, but that nearly happened. In a strange way, it was the same accident that nearly prevented him from playing the game that led him to it.

When Clemson’s All-ACC linebacker was nine years old, he was involved in a nasty wreck while racing motocross. Ben suffered a compound fracture in one of his arms, and dirt got under his skin which led to an infection.

“I had all of these surgeries and it almost got amputated and it kind of freaked my mom out enough where she said, ‘Screw the whole motocross thing. We will do something a little more safer,” Ben said on ESPNU’s College Football Daily on Monday.

So Ben started to play football.

“I guess football is more safe than motocross,” the linebacker said smiling.

Ben Boulware was not the only one to race in his family. His father, Jamie, grew up racing motocross as did his cousins, and his older brother Garrett, who was a baseball standout for the Tigers from 2012-’14.

Long before baseball and football came into their lives, motocross was the sport of choice for the Boulware brothers. Garrett used his smaller frame, plus his drive and determination to become a solid driver, while Ben was more of the risk taker as he tried to prove himself to the older kids, and more importantly to his brother.

“I’m the one that is setting the standard and he is the one that is always trying to beat me,” said Garrett, who now plays professional baseball in the minor leagues. “I always wanted to set a standard that he can’t reach and he always wants to beat my standard.

“There is definitely a rivalry there. It has always been there since we used to race motocross and even with random stuff around the house we always wanted to beat each other. But motocross is where the whole competition began. It started with who could do this jump and who could get this time or who could beat this guy.”

Motocross is the most popular form of motorcycle racing. Tracks are usually made up of hills, dirt roads, and muddy turns. The size of the course allows up to 40 riders to compete at the same time, and the bikes are much lighter than normal motorcycles.

“I kind of miss it at times,” Ben said in a previous interview with The Clemson Insider.

“It was such an intense sport that is where everything derived from, especially the way we play our sports,” Garrett said. “Motocross taught us a lot.”

It also got them injured quite a few times, too. Getting some cuts and bruises were part of it and the two brothers loved that. Why wouldn’t they, they were just boys after all.

After he lost control of his motorcycle and came down on his wrist, Garrett was in a lot of pain one day. His father rushed over to see if his son was okay. When he saw there were not any serious injuries, he encouraged his son to get back on the bike and continue the race.

But Garrett kept shaking his wrist and said it was hurting. Understanding his oldest son’s competitive spirit, Jamie took Garrett to the side, taped up his wrist and got him back on the bike.

“Garrett broke his wrist,” said Ben. “Motocross is a tough sport. He broke his wrist and my dad just taped it up and he finished the race.”

But when Ben broke his arm during a race – mom had seen enough.

“When I broke my arm, I had a hole in my arm. I mean my bone was popping out. My dad tried to put duct tape over it and make me race,” Ben said laughing. “My mom was so mad. She ran out there and let him have it. I ended up going to the hospital that night.”

And it’s a good thing he did or Ben may not be entering his senior season on the football field this Saturday when No. 2 Clemson visits Auburn down on the Plains.

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