Michael Boulware never lets his ego get the best of him. When rumors circulated that the Seminoles' strong-side linebacker might leave for the pros following the 2002 season, he sought the counsel of older brother Peter, a Baltimore Ravens linebacker and former Florida State All-America, who advised Michael to stay in school if he wasn't a definite first-rounder. Since draft experts had him pegged as a late second-rounder at best, it was an easy decision after that. "I knew I wasn't ready to go," Michael says. "In my heart I knew I hadn't played like a first-rounder yet."
That's one of the main reasons Boulware is back for his senior year. The other is that he wants a shot at a national championship. After finishing second on the team with 127 tackles a year ago, the 6'3" linebacker is heavier (having bulked up from 212 pounds to 235) and hungrier. He wants more sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries and defensive touchdowns. Boulware even spoke to the coaching staff about moving to strong safety so he could have more impact, especially since it's a position he'll likely play at the next level. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, however, decided against the move. "We're going to take advantage of Michael's athleticism, but switching him wasn't the best thing for our defense," Andrews says. "He wasn't going to learn enough to be better than what we had at safety, and we wouldn't be as good at linebacker without him."
Florida State can ill afford to squander its strengths, given that the Seminoles have gone just 17-9 over the last two seasons, during which span the defense has allowed an average of 360 yards and 23 points a game. But Boulware and fellow senior All-America candidate Kendyll Pope lead a rugged linebacking corps, the secondary is deep, and the defensive line boasts Darnell Dockett, the school's alltime leader in tackles for a loss.
Former Florida State players—including his brother—constantly remind Boulware that the current Seminoles are tarnishing the school's winning legacy. "Most of them don't handle losing well," Boulware says. "But we want to change things too. The only thing that could get in our way is a lack of unity. We have the talent, and as long as we stay unified, we'll be the team people expect us to be."
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