CLEMSON -– His seven-minute rant over, Ben Boulware turned to a sports information staffer and said:
“This is going to blow up. I’m going to be charged with sexual assault now. Whatever.”
You knew the odds were high Boulware would have something to say after the past few days created a sensation over two recent incidents featuring Clemson defensive players grabbing the crotches of other players.
First came Christian Wilkins grabbing Curtis Samuel during the Tigers’ Fiesta Bowl rout of Ohio State. The social-media buzz that followed prompted the dissemination of another example of it, this one featuring Boulware grabbing South Carolina’s Zach Bailey from behind during Clemson’s recent destruction of the Gamecocks.
Boulware has seen all sorts of stuff said in the aftermath. So after we asked him for his take on the controversy that followed, he provided his take. Which he believes is the correct take for any self-respecting person who has any idea what it’s like to be on a football team.
“People are trying to say sexual assault?” he said. “People that say that have either never played football, have never been in a locker room … I know there’s going to be that one person: ‘Well I played football and I never did that.’ You either sucked at football, you had no friends in the locker room, or you were the person that went in the bathroom stall to go change because you were scared to shower with the team.”
Clearly, Boulware is irked at the torrent of barbs he’s received from Gamecock and Buckeye fans. First of all, he said, Bailey didn’t even care about the grab.
“You saw on film where he didn’t freak out.”
Second of all, the gall of South Carolina fans to ask if the Tigers feature crotch-grabbing drills as a regular part of practice.
“No,” Boulware said. “We practice beating y’all by 49 points.”
Boulware said this kind of stuff happens all the time, and he said he’s done similar things all season without anyone objecting. He believes it’s just a way to “have fun and mess with the players a little bit and get in their heads a little bit.”
“The people freaking out about it either never played the game or are losers who didn’t have any friends when they played the game. It’s annoying because it brings so much attention to it. They’re trying to divert the fact that we beat them by 31 points, or that we beat South Carolina by 49 points."
Boulware will concede that Wilkins went too far (“about four fingers deep”). He said the rest of the team has been making fun of the sophomore defensive tackle because of how much it’s blown up.
“Nobody has done it as aggressive as Christian did,” Boulware said. “We try to be a little more discreet about it and poke somebody. He definitely grabbed a handful.”
For his part, Wilkins said it was “just a silly moment in the game, really.” He said he didn’t reach out to Samuel after the game because he has no way of getting in contact with him.
“It’s obviously blowing up and a lot of people see it and everything, but a lot of things happen in the course of a football game,” Wilkins said. “If a lot of people saw or heard what goes on, a lot of people wouldn’t be happy. That’s just another instance. I’m just focused on getting ready to play Alabama and getting the team ready and getting in the best position to play this upcoming game.”
Boulware pointed out that his playing style “may be a little over the edge sometimes with the way I tackled people this year,” but friendly poking and prodding after a play is nothing more than just having some fun to lighten the mood in his eyes.
“The worst thing I’ve done all year is poke Zach Bailey in the butt. Like is that really that big of a deal? Should I really be suspended because I touched his butt?
"Like they’re trying to get Christian suspended for grabbing this dude’s butt. Like he didn’t stomp on the dude’s ankle or punch him in his private parts or this, that and the other. He literally grabbed his butt. Is it really that big of a deal? Wouldn’t you rather me poke you in the belly button or grab your butt rather than stomp on your ankle or kick you in the … the area?”
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