Boulware on first NFL game: At the end of the day it's just football

by - Senior Writer -
Jeremy Brevard - USA Today Sports

CHARLOTTE, NC – Many of the Clemson fans who made the trek to Charlotte to see a bevy of former Tigers suit up in an NFL game had already left for home by the time Ben Boulware made an appearance late in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s contest.

That didn’t stop the former Hanna and Clemson standout from getting a big round of applause, and he told the media after the game that stepping on the field as a professional linebacker was a dream come true.

"It was cool. It was kind of the first thing I wanted to accomplish, just getting the first game out of the way and just the first snap of an NFL game,” Boulware said. “At the end of the day it's ball, at the end of the day it's just football and I felt like I was prepared for it. I felt like I was confident out there. I studied a lot and after the first play, it's football. Once you get between those white lines, that's probably a little easier than the practices are because they stress you a lot in practice. But, at the end of the day, it's ball and I thought it was a solid day."

As an undrafted free agent, Boulware knows he has to prove to the Carolina Panther coaching staff that he deserves a roster spot, and he outlined what steps he needs to take.

“Just learn the defense more. I feel like I've been pretty consistent all throughout camp; just doing my job, communicating, being a quarterback of the defense,” he said. “There is always more I can learn, more I can obtain from Luke (Kuechly), TD (Thomas Davis), and Shaq (Thompson). Just be like a sponge. This is a complicated defense. There are a lot of ins and outs that I still don't know yet. I feel like I have a good foundation, but I need to continue to build on that foundation."

Playing in an NFL stadium, however, was nothing new.

"It was cool. I actually ran on this field a couple of times with Clemson, so it's not new to me.,” Boulware said. “It's the first time out that I've run in this new uniform. so it was a cool experience. I'm used to the field, used to the grass. I've played here a couple of times at Clemson. But it was a great experience."

Boulware wasn’t the only former Tiger playing – quarterback Deshaun Watson, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and defensive tackles Carlos Watkins and D.J. Reader also saw playing time for the Texans. Boulware said earlier in the week that he wanted to tackle Watson, but Watson’s time in the game was finished by the time Boulware saw the field.

"It was different. I was hoping I would get in there against Deshaun (Watson). I knew when I got in that it might be his last series, but I was a little too late,” Boulware said. “I knew going in that I was going to be one of the later guys in, but it was cool. It was different, but it was cool. It was cool playing in different uniforms and getting to meet him. I haven't talked to him in a long time, at least face to face. Just being able to catch up with him, give him a hug, just seeing him was a cool experience."

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