2018-08-10 / Sports

Michael Boulware forges his own path

Spring Valley’s Michael Boulware played for Florida State University from 2000-2003. 
Contributed by FSU Sports Information Spring Valley’s Michael Boulware played for Florida State University from 2000-2003. Contributed by FSU Sports Information Motivation has rarely been an issue for former Spring Valley star Michael Boulware.

Well before he stepped onto the football field at Spring Valley High School or Florida State University, both programs were well aware of the Boulware name. Prior to the Michael becoming a top flight recruit during his time at Spring Valley or an All-ACC second teamer linebacker at Florida State, his older brother, Peter, was making the family name famous.

The older Boulware starred at Spring Valley and Florida State before being picked fourth in the 1997 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens, setting a lofty standard for Michael to reach. However, the younger Boulware set his own standard.

“ When I came in ninth grade, my brother got drafted in the first round, so everyone knew who he was. They had high expectations for me and I used it as motivation,” Michael said. “I knew if I did similar things I would hopefully get similar results. Every time they called me ‘my brother’ I used it as motivation to continue to work hard because he’s not a bad guy to be like.”

Michael developed a passion for football when he attended the Sterling Sharpe football camp as a middle schooler, and after watching his brothers play, he knew football was a possibility for him.

Like Peter before him, Michael suited up for Spring Valley. He started his Viking career as a defensive end. By his junior season, he was moved to linebacker and wide receiver, before seeing time at running back, quarterback, and safety as a senior.

Among his favorite memories is one during his senior year against Richland Northeast. The Cavaliers tried a reverse pass. Boulware got a sack on the play, caused a fumble, picked it up, and scored.

What turned out even more fascinating than his playing career at Spring Valley was the recruiting trail.

“I think a lot of teams assumed I was going to Florida State because of my brother,” Michael said. “At the time, they were on top. I initially didn’t get a lot of offers. However, any time I showed interest, I immediately got an offer. I wasn’t contacted as heavily. It was a great experience for me. I enjoyed it.”

When he began to get attention from schools other than Florida State, there was one glaring ommission, the University of South Carolina.

“I wasn’t sure they were interested in me,” Michael said. “It dumbfounded me the No. 1 school in the nation would come visit me, but Lou Holtz, who lives right down the road, didn’t come see me. It was kind of shocking but made the process easier for me.”

In the end it came down to Florida State and Clemson, with the Seminoles winning out.

During his four years at Florida State, Michael got the opportunity to play for legendary coach Bobby Bowden. Michael compared Bowden’s coaching style to the president of a company.

“He has standards and high expectations,” Michael said. “His door was always open. But you rarely saw him unless you did something really good or really bad. He let his assistant coaches do their jobs.”

The two coaches Michael saw the most were defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews and position coach Kevin Steele. Michael said Andrews’s defense was so successful because of the simplicity, usually only running three to five coverages while relying on the players’ athleticism.

During Michael’s freshman season at Florida State, the Seminoles went 11-2 and lost to Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship in the Orange Bowl. While Michael enjoyed plenty of success the remainder of his Seminoles career that was the closest he would come to a National Championship.

One of the major hurdles in the way were the rival Miami Hurricanes, who beat Florida State each of Michael’s four seasons. Another main rival were the Florida Gators, who Boulware won three of four games against. In two of those games, Boulware and the Florida State defense went against Gator head coach Steve Spurrier.

Michael said the week leading up to the Florida game was full of film study, because Spurrier’s offense presented so many schemes and formations. He made sure to be prepared for his assignments.

When his time at Florida State ended, Michael focused on the National Football League.

From the time he began attending the Sterling Sharpe camps, Michael knew he wanted to pursue a career in the NFL. The passion grew even deeper when Peter was drafted.

“Nothing else mattered to me,” Michael said. “Everything I did was working toward getting drafted. That was my whole focus from my ninth grade year on.”

Watching Peter go through recruiting and the NFL combine made both processes easier for Michael.

“ There is a great advantage having someone go before you and pave the way,” Michael said. “I am nine years younger than my older brother and seven years younger than Peter, so they got to make all the mistakes. I knew what to do and what not to do just by watching them and by hanging around them in elementary and middle school.”

In what Boulware called the longest day of his life, he was picked 53rd in the 2004 draft.

While initially excited about entering the NFL, panic soon set in as Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren informed Michael would be changing positions to safety. The transition did not go smoothly. However, with the help of defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes and fellow defensive back Terrance Austin, Michael learned the position.

One of the highlights of Michael’s NFL career was in 2006 when Seattle made it to Super Bowl XL in Detroit to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the outcome didn’t favor Seattle, Michael had a great experience and an interception.

Michael’s professional career went on a slide after the 2006 season. He was traded to the Houston Texans in September of 2007 and to the Minnesota Vikings in March of 2008. He retired from the NFL before playing a game with the Vikings.

Retirement was a hard pill for Boulware to swallow, as injuries forced his early exit. For many years, he boycotted football.

“It was everything I wanted it to be,” Boulware said. “Playing at the highest level did not disappoint. There is a lot about the game people don’t realize. I’m grateful for that opportunity. It was also hard. I went through a major stroke of depression.”

Boulware said during his time with Houston, he contemplated suicide.

However, his son, Michael John Jr., got him back into the game.

Wanting his son to receive the best coaching, Michael coached his son’s team.

Then he received an opportunity to coach at Cardinal Newman under coach Doug Dutton.

“Coach Dutton did a great thing for me. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot about coaching. He did a great job giving me the freedom to make mistakes and taught me how to teach and coach. I’m thankful for that opportunity,” Michael said.

After a brief stint with the Cardinals, Boulware took a year away from coaching before getting a call from Spring Valley head coach Robin Bacon, who invited him to come out to practice.

Currently, he is coaching the safeties for the Vikings. He hopes his players learn more from him than just playing football.

“I’m the best case scenario, and I had to retire at 27,” Boulware said. “What I want these guys to learn is life is more than football. We can do great things on the football field, but who you are as a man and as a person is more important. That’s the main reason I’m out here.”

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