Yes, Ben Boulware, you are indeed one of us and you will be missed


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Boulware breaks down during his speech
Boulware breaks down during his speech

Yes, Ben Boulware, you are indeed one of us.

Boulware, Clemson’s fiery and emotional leader, put on a final and memorable performance for the Clemson faithful Saturday afternoon in Death Valley, shedding his tough and gruff persona for the tender-hearted, orange-loving Clemson little kid who grew up in Anderson.

It pulled at the heart strings, and it was perfect.

The 2016 National Champions were honored with a parade and a ceremony Saturday, and nearly 70,000 fans showed up to see the trophy and pay one last tribute to the players and coaches that brought a championship back to Clemson.

Several of the senior players stood up and gave small speeches, including quarterback Deshaun Watson, center Jay Guillermo, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and tight end Jordan Leggett.

But it was during Boulware’s speech that the tears started to flow, and they came from none other than Boulware himself.

“Mine might be a little longer than everybody else's just because I grew up in this area. I've been a part of this my whole life. I'm one of y'all,” Boulware said, his voice choked with emotion. “I think the best verse that epitomizes this team is 1 Corinthians 9:24 that says, In a race everyone runs but only one wins first prize, so run your race in a way to win. Our team did that all year from the start of our offseason workouts to the very last snap of Monday night's game, we ran.”

Boulware ran with the opportunity to be the leader of a team that needed a player’s voice following the Tigers’ loss to Alabama in the 2016 game in Arizona. Anyone who watched Clemson at practice, in pre-game or during a game knew that Boulware left everything he had on the playing field.

“We controlled the input. We controlled what we put in our body,” he said. “We controlled our mindset, our attitude every day at practice and we let the output take care of itself. We didn't care if we had to go across the country to play Ohio State and we were underdogs. We focused on us. We controlled our input, and we took care of that game. We didn't care if we were playing big, bad Alabama, we focused on us. We took care of business in that game.”

He then went on to thank the players and coaches that taught him how to lead and how to get the most out of his athletic abilities.

“I'm really so thankful for y'all. I'm so thankful for this community,” Boulware said. “I'm so thankful for guys like Stephone Anthony, Grady Jarrett and Eric Mac Lain that taught me how to be a leader and not by their words, but by their actions every day. I'm so thankful for guys like Tajh Boyd and C.J. Spiller that exhausted every moment and exhausted so much into this program and university to get it to where it is today. I'm so thankful for Coach Swinney for giving me the opportunity to play here. I'm so thankful for Coach V (Brent Venables). I love him like a father.”

Whether it was his frantic special teams play his freshman year, his joy in the rain after the win over Notre Dame, his WWE moves on ball carriers or the pure joy that he showed following Clemson’s win over Alabama, Boulware showed he was more than just another player.

Truly passionate fans wish they could take one snap, play just one play and spend just a few moments wearing the paw in a real game. If they could, they would be Ben Boulware. He was an extension of all of us, and he will be missed.

“I'm so thankful for this university, and the opportunity that I've been given, the platform that I've been placed on and I'm just glad the trophy is back home. I love y'all,” he said.

We’ll miss ya, Ben, but not because you’re a great football player. We’ll miss you because you’re one of us.

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