There is no guarantee that former Clemson stars Deshaun Watson and Ben Boulware will be on the field at the same time when the Texans face the Panthers in Wednesday’s preseason opener in Charlotte.
Watson was a first-round pick in April’s NFL draft and is battling for Houston’s starting quarterback job. He likely will not play much into the second half before giving way to third-string quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Boulware went undrafted and is battling for one of Carolina’s last roster spots. His playing time is expected to come late in the game, when most starters will be on the sideline.
But if Boulware is on the field at the same time as his former teammate and close friend, he has no plans of letting up on Watson if he has an opportunity to lay him out.
“I’ll give him a hug and a kiss after, but I would put everything into that hit,” Boulware said earlier this week at training camp. “That’s three and a half years of waiting to hit somebody, and I would put all three years into one hit.”
Boulware wasn’t allowed to hit Watson in practice at Clemson.
“If you even breathed on him during practice coach (Dabo) Swinney would pull your scholarship,” Boulware joked. “I’ve never had the opportunity to do it.”
Watson and Boulware will be joined by several players with ties to South Carolina and Clemson in Wednesday’s preseason game.
In addition to Watson, the Texans have former Clemson standouts Marcus Gilchrist, DeAndre Hopkins, D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins. A couple of former Gamecocks stars also play for Houston – Jadeveon Clowney and Johnathan Joseph.
Boulware is the only former Clemson player on the Panthers’ roster, but South Carolina products Damiere Byrd and Captain Munnerlyn also play for the Panthers.
Boulware said, while he is close with his former teammates off the field, he will not be friendly Wednesday until after the game is over.
“Those are my dogs. I love those boys. We’ve been best friends for years. But once you get on the football field you kind of flip a switch when you’re out there,” Boulware said. “It’ll be cool kind of seeing them on the opposite side of the ball and a different color jersey on. Hopefully, we can take a picture. Clemson family. Obviously, we’ll be wearing different jerseys, but it’ll be a cool experience.”
IPTAY has rented a box at Bank of America Stadium for the families of the former Clemson players, Boulware said.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera mentioned Boulware as a player who has impressed with his football smarts through the first couple of weeks of training camp.
“That’s what I wanted to prove. I think everyone knows that I know the game of football. I’m, obviously, not the biggest guy out there or the fastest, but I know football,” Boulware said. “I know how to be the quarterback of the defense. I proved that over my three years at Clemson.”
Boulware feels strong about the position he is in to make the 53-man roster.
“I’m very confident that I’m going to make the team,” he said. “I don’t control the decisions that coach Rivera and the rest of the staff make, but my job is to prove to them that I’m capable of landing on the roster. I think, so far, I’ve done that.”
Players to watch
A look at the USC and Clemson connections when the Texans play the Panthers in a preseason game on Wednesday night:
Ben Boulware, LB, Clemson
Captain Munnerlyn, DB, USC
Damiere Byrd, WR, USC
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, USC
Johnathan Joseph, DB, USC
Robert McNair, owner, USC
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Marcus Gilchrist, DB, Clemson
D.J. Reader, DL, Clemson
Carlos Watkins, DL, Clemson