By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
After he lost control of his motorcycle and came down on his wrist, Garrett Boulware was in a lot of pain. His father, Jamie, rushed over to see if his son was okay. When he saw there were no 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 Boulware, Garrett’s younger brother, who signed to play football for Clemson back in February. “Motocross is a tough sport. He broke his wrist and my dad just taped it up and he finished the race.”
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 other kids and more importantly to his older brother.
“I’m the one that is setting the standard and he is the one that is always trying to beat me,” said Garrett, Clemson’s starting catcher on the baseball team. “I always wanted to set a standard that he could not reach and he always wanted to beat it.
“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 or 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.
For the first six or seven years of their competitive lives, racing was really all the Boulware brothers wanted to do. Of course, like most kids at that age, they played baseball, but their passion at the time was getting on those dirt tracks and racing anyone they could.
“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.
But when young Ben, who was 10 at the time, broke his arm during a race – Mama 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 that ultimately led to the end of their motocross career. Crystal Boulware, who had been home schooling her two sons at the time, did not take it away altogether at first. She sort of eased them out of it.
Instead of racing every weekend, it dropped to every other week. Then it went to once a month and then after she put them in public school, motocross went away altogether.
“I wasn’t happy about it, but I never really saw it coming,” Garrett said. “It kind of just went out of my life and I did not realize it until a couple of years later. I miss it. I still miss it. I loved it, but I think it was better for us because our bodies were getting beat to death.”
With motocross out of their lives, the Boulware brothers turned their attention to baseball and football. Both excelled at both sports, however, Garrett became a better baseball player, while Ben became a football star.
“I was a good high school linebacker, but not good enough to be (at Clemson) though. That’s why I’m playing baseball,” Garrett said.
“I’m not as good of a catcher as Garrett,” Ben said. “Coach (Jack) Leggett and Coach (Bradley) LeCroy have talked to me about maybe being a designated hitter or first baseman and maybe I will after a couple of years or so, but I’m not sure if I will play or not.”
At nearby T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, SC, Garrett earned Area Player of the Year honors after hitting .533 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs. He ended up being drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 42nd round of the 2011 Amateur Baseball Draft, but he chose to come to Clemson where he has earned a spot as the starting catcher in just his second season.
Garrett currently leads the Tigers with a .344 batting average, four home runs and 19 RBIs.
“It was my sophomore year when I got a letter from Clemson and that’s when I really got excited about playing baseball,” the older brother said. “I still wanted to play football. After motocross, football was my first love. I love football. But in my junior year of football season I suffered a neck injury. It was not serious, but it kind of scared me. It was one of those neck injuries you do not want to play around with.
“At the end of the day, I saw myself in a lot of pain all the time. I also loved baseball so I decided this is something I should stick with because I think my career will be longer. I enjoy it and it is going to be a lot safer for me in the long run.”
Ben, who is also an outstanding baseball player, went in the other direction. A little bit bigger than Garrett, he had 174 tackles, including four tackles for loss this past fall at T.L. Hanna. This, of course, was after he recorded 178 tackles and four sacks as a junior and 151 tackles with 11 tackles for loss, four sacks and four interceptions as a sophomore.
“Ben is a great baseball player, but he doesn’t have the love for baseball like he does for football,” Garrett said. “You can kind of see it. He still plays hard in baseball, but it’s not like he does in football. It’s not his passion. He has a good time, but it is not what he loves doing.”
That love for football might be the result of Ben’s passion for motocross when he was young.
“It was a tough sport and I guess that’s why I’m so tough on the football field, but I wish I was still racing,” he said. “I’m kind of too heavy to race now, but I love it. I kind of miss it, but it is too much wear and tear on my body, though.
“It has kind of transferred to the football field so it has helped me out a little bit I guess.”
More than a little bit. Ben, who is 6-foot-1 and weighs 230 pounds, proved his worth on the football field in practice for the Under Armour All-America Game. He was named as the game’s Captain for his team, and then recorded three tackles for loss and an interception.
The performance moved him up in the national rankings as ESPN ranked him as the No. 78 overall player. He was also listed as the No. 3 overall inside linebacker in the nation and the top player in South Carolina by ESPN.
“The way Ben plays, to me, he is an old-school player,” Garrett said. “He is tough, plays hard all the time. It is more his mentality. He is real tough, he works real hard and he wants to be as good as he can.
“I think he wanted to prove to everyone at the Under Armour Game that he could play this game, and I think that is what drove him. Yes, he is a little shorter than most linebackers, but that has never been a problem. He just wanted to prove to all the skeptics that he can hold his own.”
These days, when he is not playing for T.L. Hanna, Ben comes as often as he can to his brother’s baseball games. In the fall, Garrett plans on returning the favor, and he can’t wait to see his little brother run down the Hill. Something they both dreamed about doing when they were growing up as Clemson fans.
“That’s going to be awesome,” Garrett said. “It’s going to be hard to watch at first because I want him to do so well. I’m going to be there, but it is going to be hard to watch him play on the field. The love I have for him, I don’t want to see anything go wrong. It’s going to be hard, but it is something I can’t wait to see.
“Other than being my brother, he is one of my best friends. We talk to each other about everything. We talk every day. We get along. We played sports together our whole lives so he is a teammate, too.”
And soon he will be a classmate at Clemson University and a fellow Clemson Tiger as well.