ANDERSON, S.C. -- Putting on his Under Armour All-America Game jersey, Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna linebacker Ben Boulware gave a little glance to his left and let out just the slightest smile to his parents.
As the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game made a stop at T.L. Hanna to present a game jersey to Boulware, he is well aware of how close he came to not being able to play football.
Growing up in a racing family, Boulware started racing dirt bikes at the age of 5.
"I was homeschooled until third grade because we would race almost every other day," said Boulware, who's the No. 137 recruit in the ESPN 150. "We would travel in a RV that we would take to North Carolina and Virginia for races."
Racing in a national tournament as a 9-year-old, Boulware got the inside line in one of his races but hit a rock going into the first turn.
"I fell down and everybody ran over my arm," he said. "I got knocked out and when I woke up I had a huge hole in my arm and my bone went through my arm."
Boulware and his family went back to the RV, and Ben made an attempt to duct tape his arm so he could head back out to the track for another race.
"My mom gets mad, so we had to go to the hospital and found out that I broke two bones in my arm, and it got infected because dirt got in there."
Boulware couldn't compete for more than a year, and after coming back, the infection returned.
"That's when we had to have more surgeries to get the dirt out. They almost had to cut my arm off," he said, rubbing his forearm through his dress shirt.
"After that, I couldn't race any more and I loved racing."
The Boulware family decided to switch sports, so Ben and his brother started playing baseball and football.
T.L. Hanna head coach Kenya Fouch first heard about Boulware in middle school when he arrived in the weight room to test for the high school football team and bench pressed 225 pounds eight times, a number normally fit for an upperclassman.
"We knew we had something pretty good, but we wanted to see what he could do with pads on," said Fouch. "About five minutes into our first practice, we could tell there was something special.
"His style is that he runs fast and hits hard. That has always been his game. We have, if anything, worked hard to slow him down a little bit. Getting his read steps and his fundamentals, but the part that really matters he has always had, which is running and hitting."
The thought of hitting certainly suits Boulware, who adds, "I just like to hurt people. I like to tackle people. I just like playing football, really."
As a junior, Boulware made 180 tackles in ten games, and garnered the attention of college coaches from around the country and added early offers – starting with Stanford and Central Florida.
After accumulating 15 scholarship offers, the unabashed Clemson fan was without a scholarship from the Tigers. Still, Boulware and his father received an invitation to visit the Tigers football offices in March.
"My dad and I went up to coach Dabo Swinney's office, so it was the three of us and coach [Brent] Venables. They said they were offering me a scholarship. My parents went crazy. I went crazy. It was a dream come true, really."
Three weeks later, the dirt biker turned football player committed to Clemson, opening yet another chapter in his young career.
So as Boulware finished putting on his Under Armour jersey and hat, he was hiding just a little something extra behind that rare smile.