Ben Boulware was the inspirational, and controversial, heart of the national champion Clemson Tigers defense. He went undrafted over the weekend, which had to feel like a slap in the face. But fortunately for Boulware’s football future, the Carolina Panthers offered him a contract, and he’s ready to make people sorry they passed on him.
“I felt like I was deserving to get drafted,” Boulware said, according to ESPN. “I thought my tape proved that, who we played and how I played in those games. It was a long weekend, but I’m good. I’m ready to play ball.”
Boulware led the Tigers with 116 tackles last season. But he took heat for his aggressive play and his tendency to defend teammates who — how best to put this? — fondled, groped, probed, and poked opponents in areas usually covered by underwear. Boulware blew it off by saying, “The game is so serious and it’s so locked in out there, you try to do stuff just to have fun, to break up the seriousness of the game.” Of course, getting handsy against college students is one thing; if Boulware tries that move on an NFL field, he’s likely to lose his arm.
Barring injury, Boulware won’t be in the mix for a starting job; the Panthers are set at linebacker with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. Instead, he’ll be serving as backup and on special teams, looking to prove himself on a larger field.
“I make plays,” Boulware said. “It’s as simple as that. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way or cocky. I make plays. That’s all I’ve done over the past three years, so I’m not going to change that.”
Boulware conceded that he was hurt that Carolina took a kicker, Georgia Tech’s Harrison Butker with its seventh and final pick of the draft. But a call from Panthers head coach Ron Rivera helped ease the pain.
“I’m in the business of proving people wrong,” Boulware said. “They said I would never play for Clemson or never start or never make an impact. I was a consensus All-American the past two years, so I’m not really sweating what the critics say. I’m really not trying to prove anybody wrong. I’m trying to prove myself right, that I’m capable of playing at this level, because I know I am.”
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[Update: Article clarified to distinguish Boulware’s own actions from his defense of a teammate while at Clemson.]
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.