One would be hard-pressed to find someone who loves Clemson as much as Ben Boulware loves Clemson.
The linebacker poured his heart and soul into the Clemson Football program and it showed both on the field and in the locker room. The natural-born leader built his Clemson career on hard work and dedication to prove his doubters wrong and to serve both his teammates and the Tigers’ faithful fans.
Boulware played a major role in the success Clemson had in his four years as a Tiger, and he led the defensive unit that finished the 2016 season ranked third in sacks and tackles for loss as well as No. 8 in total defense. Boulware finished with 131 total tackles including 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
In Clemson’s National Championship victory over Alabama, the All-American led the team with two tackles for loss. He ended his career being named as the nation’s best linebacker as a Jack Lambert Award recipient. He also succeeded academically as a leader on the 2016 All-ACC Academic Football team.
Coming out of high school. Boulware was ranked as the No. 78 player in the nation by ESPN, the No. 1 player in the state of South Carolina and was among the top three inside linebackers. But for the Anderson, South Carolina native, the decision to attend Clemson over schools like Stanford, Ole Miss and Georgia, was easy once the Tigers finally offered him. Although the offer came later than Boulware would have liked, it came from then new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, a person who Boulware would quickly form a special bond with.
“I’m so thankful for Coach V. I love him like a father,” Boulware said at the National Championship celebration in Clemson.
The late offer contributed to Boulware’s workhorse mentality, and he started to give Clemson fans a taste of what was to come in his first year as a Tiger. In the 11 games he appeared in as a freshman, he had 25 tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception. He shined on special teams and ended his freshman season tied for the second-most special teams tackles.
“I am a leader and not afraid of hard work,” Boulware said. “I have no problem laying my body on the line and help my teammates.”
By 2014, Boulware’s hard work on special teams began to payoff and he recorded his first career start against Louisville where he had a team-high of 12 tackles, and a game-high of three tackles for loss and a sack. He ended the season with 58 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, six quarterback pressures, a pass breakup, two recovered fumbles and an interception that he returned 47 yards for a touchdown in Clemson’s 40-6 victory over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
From that he earned the right to be the guy for Clemson in 2015 where he started in all 15 games of Clemson’s run at the national title. That season, he finished second on the team with his 138 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, while also leading the team with 29 quarterback pressures. He disrupted offenses all season long with seven pass breakups and three caused fumbles, and he was named the defensive MVP of the 2015 Capital One Orange Bowl where he had a fourth quarter interception.
To close his successful college career, Boulware finished with 348 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, and five interceptions. While he is preparing for the 2017 NFL Draft, he made an impression on pro scouts by leading the South team to victory in the Senior Bowl with his six tackles.
However, no matter what the numbers on the stat boards equate to or what the measurables that will be tested in the upcoming combine say, Boulware will be remembered for the passion he plays the game with along with the love he shows for his fellow teammates and coaches.
That, in combination with his ability to lead and inspire people, contributed to him being voted on as a permanent captain of the 2016 National Championship team. His ability to move people could be witnessed in any number of his post-championship speeches in which emotion overcame the top-tackler. In Clemson’s victory parade and celebration, Boulware addressed tens of thousands of Clemson fans with a heart-felt message
“I’m one of ya’ll,” Boulware said as he fought back tears of joy. “We were able to bring those fans, who bleed for us like we bleed for them, the best gift. All my life I have followed this program and was filled with happiness.”
We are now taking orders for our limited edition magazine Mission Accomplished. Remember Clemson’s championship season with this great magazine from the staff that covers Clemson football 365 days a year. Order your’s today to make sure you get a copy!