Boulware daps Cam Newton, but ready to contribute, even as tackling dummy


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Boulware after his practice as a Panther
Boulware after his practice as a Panther

CHARLOTTE, NC – Ben Boulware was so excited for his first day as a Carolina Panther that he showed up for practice early. So early, in fact, that he was able to nap in his car. Now he feels like he can make the Panthers 53-man roster, even if he has to be a tackling dummy.

The former Clemson linebacker was signed as an undrafted free agent following last weekend’s NFL Draft, inking with the team he grew up pulling for.

“This is a dream come true. I've been working to get to this point for a really long time,” Boulware told the media after practice. “To see it come to `fruition is really cool. I have a lot of work to do and there is a very difficult task at hand. But I am ready for the challenge, ready to make that 53.”

Boulware laughed when he talked about showing up for his first practice a few hours early.

“Well, I didn’t know what else to do!” Boulware said after his first rookie minicamp session at Bank of America Stadium Friday afternoon. “I knew I was two hours away, I knew the Greenville traffic might be bad, and then Charlotte traffic might be worse. And I thought, ‘I’m not going to be late the first day.’ So I left at like 7 a.m., just took a nap in my car. I don't know Charlotte. I just kind of chilled in the car.”

He then laughed when talking about being snubbed in the draft.

“It’s all good, it is what it is,” he said. “I absolutely wanted to get drafted. But I didn’t. You can’t really fret or get (angry) about it, because there is nothing I can do about it. And it’s in the past. All I can really do is make the most of my situation here. I guess I was the Panthers’ eighth-round pick this year.”

Boulware gets a chance to learn from two of the best linebackers in the game – Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis – and he’s already heard from Kuechly.

“(I came here) to learn behind two of the best linebackers in the game right now: Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis,” he said. “I feel like that was the perfect opportunity to learn and grow as a player. I feel like it’s a good market for me, being two hours away from my home. I feel like I can make the team. They need playmakers in this league, and that’s what I do.

“Luke actually texted me the day before I got here, just kind of welcoming me to the organization. That was so cool. I was totally a fan, I screenshot it and showed it to all my friends. But it’s Luke Kuechly. I’m not going to try to be a fan and kiss his butt or anything, but he’s one of the best players in the game now, so that was a pretty cool feeling.”

Boulware said he is under no illusions that he has earned any kind of a spot with the Panthers.

“I know there’s not really any security in being a free agent. I have to work my butt off. There are only 53 spots and there are a lot of guys here,” Boulware said. “I know Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are better than me. "I’m not going to lie and say that I am going to try to take their starting job, because there’s no way in hell I’m going to.”

“I’m honestly going to be ready for any opportunity that comes up. Obviously, I’m going to try to make the team...but I will play special teams, I’ll be the tackling dummy, whatever it is. I’m just trying to make the 53-man.”

As always, however, he is ready for the next challenge.

“I’m up for it, I’ve done it before,” he said. “Going from a pretty highly-recruited high school player to not doing nothing as a freshman (at Clemson), playing special teams, I’m sure it’s going to be the same role this year. But it is what it is. It’s the role I’ve been placed in and the opportunity I’ve been given, so I’m just going to make the most of it.”

Boulware did have one special moment during his first session, and it came with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

“Cam came up to me yesterday and dapped me up (meaning Newton fist-bumped Boulware),” Boulware said. “I was like, ‘That’s pretty cool. Cam Newton dapped me up!’ ”



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