Clemson University

Clemson’s Ben Boulware signs with Carolina Panthers as undrafted free agent

Ron Rivera says the Panthers have a hard time convincing undrafted linebackers to sign with them because, well, the team’s linebacker core includes three first-round picks, including two Pro Bowlers.

So the fact that Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware is headed to Charlotte as an undrafted rookie speaks volumes about the confidence Boulware has in himself.

Rivera sounded giddy about adding a player who was one of the emotional leaders of the Tigers’ national championship team last season.

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“Here’s a young man that’s in our backyard that went undrafted – I’m not quite sure why,” Rivera said Saturday. “He’s been very successful in his career and played on a very successful team and helped lead them to a national championship. He’s a winner. I’m excited about getting him here.”

Boulware, who’s from Anderson, S.C., won the Jack Lambert Award last season as the nation’s top linebacker. He also was the defensive MVP in the title game against Alabama.

“He’s instinctive. He’s tough. He will tag your fanny,” Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman said. “He’s smart. He’s all the stuff we’re looking for.”

Boulware, 6-foot and 238 pounds, is a little on the small side and did not have a good showing at the combine. He ran the 40 in 4.86 seconds and his 29.5-inch vertical jump tied for the lowest among linebackers.

But he was a tackling machine for the Tigers, finishing with 113 stops – and four sacks – last season.

Gettleman confirmed the Panthers also have signed undrafted Mississippi State wideout Fred Ross. The 6-1, 213-pound Ross is Mississippi State’s career leader in catches (199) and receiving yards (2,528).

The Panthers will hold a rookie minicamp Friday and Saturday for their seven draft picks, undrafted free agents and other players on tryout contracts.

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