Former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware visited R.C. Edwards Middle School in Central on Tuesday.
Dan Hope/Independent Mail
CENTRAL – The R.C. Edwards Middle School football team received a visit from a national champion on Tuesday morning.
Ben Boulware, the leading tackler on last year’s national championship-winning Clemson football team, teamed up with Academy Sports to donate 30 new sets of shoulder pads to the Panthers — and surprise them with an appearance at their school.
An Anderson native who played football against R.C. Edwards in his own years at McCants Middle School, Boulware said he wanted to give back to the local community now that he has the platform and ability to do so.
“I’m probably going to make a lot of the McCants people mad … but it’s cool just to give back,” Boulware said. “I finally have the opportunity to do that.”
Boulware playfully chided one student for wearing an Alabama sweatshirt — Clemson defeated the Crimson Tide in this year’s national championship game — and another student for wearing a shirt with the logo of Clemson’s biggest rival, South Carolina.
The main message of Boulware’s brief address to the students, however, was to follow their dreams — even if that dream is playing football for Clemson or Alabama or South Carolina.
“Your dream is real,” Boulware said. “I’m living proof of that.”
Boulware said he grew up playing with “crappy” shoulder pads, so he felt it was important to donate shoulder pads to help R.C. Edwards players avoid injuries.
Josh Vaughn, an assistant coach for the Panthers, helped organize the donation, which he said “relieves a huge financial burden” for R.C. Edwards.
“We are really, really grateful for what Academy and Ben has done for us,” Vaughn said. “We got to make sure that these guys are safe and make sure that they are fully protected, and with new shoulder pads, we now have that, which is very important, because some of our equipment was getting old and it was ready to be replaced.”
Boulware will be in Anderson on Wednesday for “Ben Boulware Day,” when the local native will be honored at the Anderson Area Touchdown Club banquet at the Civic Center of Anderson. Other members of last year’s Clemson team are expected to attend along with defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who’ll be the guest speaker, and former head coach Danny Ford.
Boulware is a candidate to be selected in next week’s NFL draft, likely on April 29, the final day of the draft.
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