Ben Boulware always knew that football wasn’t forever, but what the former Clemson national champion didn’t know in 2017 was that would soon become his reality. After short stints in the NFL with both the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers, the linebacker soon decided that it was time to hang up his cleats and move on to his next chapter.
“I always had a plan b,” Boulware told The Clemson Insider. “Coach [Dabo] Swinney, really with Paw Journey and a lot of things they’re doing now, are really trying to put that right in those guys’ faces to have a plan b because it’s going to happen at some point. Luckily, I had one.
“So, come 2017, I tried with the Panthers and the 49ers and had some tryouts, but then just got miserable. It wasn’t fun anymore and I was trying to fight for a practice squad spot, and I was like, ‘that’s not my dream.’ I know I had a solid career at Clemson, that was the pinnacle, and I just had to make a decision, hey it’s done with and it’s okay, nothing wrong with it, and just like went full force into business.”
Fast-forward four years later and Boulware has taken full advantage of his plan b, opening The Junkyard, a HIIT-style gym in his hometown of Anderson, S.C., alongside business partner Marcus Brown in 2017 and later adding a second location to the Greenville area in May of 2020.
“We are first and foremost a HIIT studio,” Boulware said. “What HIIT means is high intensity interval training, so it’s an anaerobic exercise. We have a treadmill station, a cycle station, a rower station, and then a mat station where we do like functional movements, kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls — you name it, we have it. We don’t do barbell work, but we base all of the workouts off of the stations and intervals, but we also do them off of this [patented] music software we created.”
Looking back to 2017 to where he is now, the football star turned business owner can’t help but remember the times when they were literally building their dreams, brick by brick, until the opening of the Anderson location in 2018.
But for Boulware, the grind was well worth it.
“We built our Anderson studio by our hands, so we’re like laying the concrete, doing the plumbing, doing the shower tile, and it’s a multitude of video memories of me and Marcus, extremely dirty and laying concrete to get the gym open. But that’s what you have to do,” Boulware told TCI. “We built it from the ground up, which makes the fruit that much sweeter because we dug to get some labor out of it. It’s cool now to see some growth, see us make some changes, and open new locations, but that’s only because we were down and dirty to do the shower tile.”
Now four years removed from football, Boulware is ready for his next challenge. The former national championship defensive MVP knew he needed a change and a new goal to chase, so he decided to go after what is considered one of the most physically demanding sporting events in the world: An Ironman.
“I’m the person that needs like a goal or a challenge to fight for and I didn’t have that,” Boulware continued. “I hopped on the scale one day and it said like 268, and I was like this is tough for me and I’m gonna make a change. I need to sign up for the most aggressive thing possible to actually light a fire under my butt, so I signed up for an Ironman. I texted Marcus, my business partner, and about five or six of our staff to do it with me, and somehow, I convinced them to do it. So, there are about nine or ten of us that are on our staff that are doing the Ironman in Panama City in November. It really just came from me trying to find the most challenging thing I could do because I need to lose weight and I’m currently about 40 pounds down.”