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  • Former Clemson LB Ben Boulware opens up about what he's expecting and looking forward to at the NFL combine, including the extra motivation behind his bench press.
By Ben Boulware
March 02, 2017

I’m ready for Indianapolis. After two months of training for the combine, I’m ready for something different.

Since January, I’ve spent most of my time in Gulf Breeze, Fla., working on my 40-yard dash, bench press and the field drills I’ll get put through this weekend at the combine. This training will help me improve my stock, but it definitely gets pretty boring. You get up at 7:30 a.m. and get a workout. You do therapy. You work out again. You get home about 5 p.m.. Then you watch Netflix or play XBox until you go to sleep. Then you do it all over again. During down time, I’ve been more into Xbox. I’ve got a snowboarding game called Steep. I’ve been playing that a crap ton and I’ve already beaten it. I’m also playing the new Call of Duty. The next show I want to binge is Designated Survivor, but I’m trying to figure out what my Netflix username and password is from my little sister. But she won’t text me back.

As you can see, I’m definitely looking forward to getting to Indy to see new people, see a new town and see the fruits of my labor.

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I’m very excited to show what I can do at the combine. I feel like a lot of people just stereotype. People see a six-foot white guy, and they automatically slap on the label that I’m not athletic, that I’m stiff, that I’m slow, that I can’t do all these these things. That gets kind of annoying, especially when I have the tape that debunks that argument. I feel like people don’t do their homework. I’m not a perfect player, but I feel like my tape this year disproves those labels. You try tackling Lamar Jackson in space three times. I don’t feel like I have a lot to prove, but I definitely want to get out there and compete and show them that I’m more athletic and faster than people think.

I’m also really looking forward to meeting all the NFL GMs and coaches. I feel like the interviews will set me apart. I want to get on the board and show them my knowledge of the game. I learned a lot about this process at the Senior Bowl in January. There, the meetings with the teams are as important as the practices and the game. It was a very good acclimation phase. You meet all those coaches and learn what they’re going to ask. A lot of it is simple stuff—your family background, your college background, your best game film, best attributes, biggest weaknesses. When you get through all that, they just want to know your football IQ. They’ll ask about your defense. They’ll want you to draw your defense against a particular formation and have you explain the reads, the disguises and the leverages of every position. When they dig deeper, they basically want to know football stuff.

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There’s this psych test that you’ve got to take that takes about an hour and a half. I think the guys who take it at the Senior Bowl don’t have to do it at the combine, so I’m super pumped to not take that again. It tests memory. You have to remember a series of numbers. Or there is a red dot, a blue dot and a green dot and you have to remember the order. I was like, “This is not football.” But it was basically a computer Wonderlic.

The weirdest part of the Senior Bowl was the weigh-in before the first practice. It’s very uncomfortable. I’m not going to lie. You’re in compression shorts, and there’s 300 or 400 people in the auditorium just looking at you. You’re basically naked. It’s kind of awkward. They’re staring at you, and they’re taking notes. I don’t even want to know what they were writing. Hopefully good things. It’s an uncomfortable process, but it’s part of it. They really want to know everything about you.

Between the Senior Bowl and the combine—when I wasn’t virtually snowboarding or hunting for my Netflix password—I released video of some of my finest work as a Clemson Tiger. If you haven’t seen it, take a look.

We were on the bus to the airport to fly to Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl. The sleeping giant you see first is Albert Huggins, a 305-pound defensive tackle. The hand you see belongs to my accomplice, better known as future first-round defensive end Christian Wilkins. Albert snores so loudly. You kind of had to mess with him. I’m surprised Albert didn’t choke. Me and Christian put 10 Sour Patch Kids in his mouth, which was probably stupid on our part. We could have woken him up, but I’m not doing CPR or mouth-to-mouth. He was so fat and hungry that he just ate them. I don’t know how he did it, but he was eating them in his sleep. He woke up later and didn’t know about it. He saw us laughing, and this was the conversation we had.

Albert: What?

Me: You have no clue, do you?

Albert: What are you talking about?

Me: Is your mouth kind of sour?

Albert: A little bit. Why?

Then I showed him the video, and he just started dying laughing.

I felt like the world just needed to see that. I realize that by releasing it I’m basically inviting my future NFL teammates to give me a taste of my own medicine. They’re going to terrorize me. I pray to God they don’t touch my beard. I will pay them money not to touch my beard. It’s taken a long time to grow. I realize by saying this that it’s probably the first thing they’ll come after. I’ll offer money. I’ll carry shoulder pads. I’ll do anything. Just don’t touch the beard.

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One thing I’m not scared of is the physical at the combine. There’s a bunch of medical stuff, but luckily I haven’t had many problems. That should go pretty smoothly. A lot of the guys I’ve worked with have had knee problems and shoulder surgeries. That sucks, because they’re going to bend your arm or move your leg in the weirdest way to see if it hurts.

I’m excited about the bench press, because every 225-pound rep I put up will help a good cause. I’m competing against my former Clemson teammate Jordan Leggett to raise money for Stand By The Wounded, a charity that helps injured military personnel, veterans and first responders. Jordan and I have been training at EXOS, which also partners with the military to provide rehab services for injured Special Operations troops. So we get to work out alongside SEALs and Rangers and other badasses. Before I started playing sports, my brother and I wanted to join the military. Now that I’ve met these guys, I know I’m way too soft. I’m not man enough to do what they do. I play a game. What they’re doing is real life. When you meet them and get to know them, you just gain a new level of respect for them. You see the wounds and the scars.

They’re all different shapes and sizes. Some are 6' 5" with beards and tattoos. They look like what the movies would portray a Special Ops guy to be. But some of the baddest guys are like 5' 5". They look like tiny little frat guys, and they could kill me in a second. I’m honored to help them in any way I can. If you’d like to donate, click here. Then root for me to pump out a bunch of reps on the bench in Indy this weekend.

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