Brent Venables will admit he is much more comfortable calling plays in front of thousands of people live and millions of people on TV than he is opening himself up in front of people.
Clemson’s defensive coordinator will also tell you he typically doesn’t shower praise upon his players because he doesn’t want them to let up.
But it was different for Venables on April 19, “Ben Boulware Day” in Anderson.
Venables was the headlining speaker during the Anderson Area Touchdown Club banquet at the Civic Center of Anderson on Wednesday, when he let his guard down and let Boulware know how much he appreciates him.
“I’m fearful, if I show too much love and I celebrate too much, that these guys are going to put their guard down and we’re going to lose every game,” Venables said during his speech. “So this is my opportunity to really give Ben what he deserves.”
Venables ran through a list of things he wanted to thank his former linebacker for, from his commitment and passion to his leadership and the example he set for his teammates at Clemson.
“Thank you for your humility,” Venables said. “Thank you for your servant leadership. You have made me better. You make everybody that you touch better in everything that they do. Thank you for your commitment to excellence and upholding the values that we stand for at Clemson. Thank you for your belief in Clemson, in coach Swinney and myself and our vision.
“And thank you for your passion because nothing great in life is accomplished without passion and love. You’ve cared for your teammates, you’ve loved your teammates and you’ve served them willingly from your freshman year all the way to the very last moment we left that locker room after beating Alabama.”
Boulware was a two-year starter and two-time All-ACC Academic Team selection during his career, when he recorded 352 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, five interceptions, 41 quarterback pressures, 10 pass breakups, six caused fumbles and four recovered fumbles in 2,131 snaps across 53 games (31 starts).
The product of T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson was a two-time first-team All-ACC performer (coaches), and a second-team All-American in 2016. He earned the Jack Lambert Award as the nation’s top linebacker last season before being named Defensive MVP of Clemson’s 35-31 victory over Alabama in the national championship game.
He was also voted by his teammates last season as a permanent captain, something Venables said he exemplified.
“You showed what being a captain’s all about,” Venables said to Boulware. “You didn’t ever take that for granted, and represented everything with integrity, with character, with toughness, with the consistency that the great ones do. You became an All-American, you were MVP of the national championship, but all the while you remained incredibly humble and always gave the credit to your teammates.”
Venables called Boulware one of his favorite players he has ever coached and said “Ben Boulware has been and always will be the best of the best.”
“Thank you for being a great player for me, and not the tackles and the sacks and all those types of things, but the example that you set for your teammates,” he said. “You took a torch that was handed to you and man, you took it to new heights, to places that I never imagined. One of my all-time favorite players because of your love for the game, your willingness to commit in a selfless way, the consistency that you brought.”
Venables reflected on times throughout Boulware’s career when he would show up to the football offices by himself on a Sunday afternoon and ask for Venables’ weekly tips and reminders for the upcoming opponent. He remembers Boulware calling him for his game-film grades on numerous occasions late Saturday nights, and he certainly remembers the talk Boulware gave to his fellow linebackers in the locker room before the national title game.
Clemson has a banner in its indoor practice facility that reads, “Do the common things in an uncommon way and you will command the attention of the world.”
Venables said that is what Boulware did throughout his time at Clemson.
“One thing that Ben Boulware is not, is common,” he said. “He’s everything but common. Ben set the thermostat within our team on a daily basis and he brought the best out of his teammates, but he also brought the best out of us as coaches. Ben wanted to be pushed and challenged and held to the standard of excellence that he himself helped create.”
If Venables had to choose one adjective to describe Boulware, it would be “dreamer.”
Boulware isn’t the most physically gifted player and has always had his doubters, and it’s no different now as he prepares for what he hopes will be a chance to play in the NFL.
But he hasn’t let those doubters deter him from accomplishing his goals and living out his dreams.
“It’s that vision and dreaming big that has propelled and fueled him to go above and beyond and achieve things that many young men like him don’t because they put that barrier in front of themselves,” Venables said. “They have a cant-do attitude. They build excuses for failure. They don’t handle adversity the right way.
“Adversity is a door in front of Ben, and instead of knocking on it, he’s kicking it down.”