Michael Boulware never lets his ego get the best of him. When
rumors circulated that the Seminoles' strongside 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
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." --J.C.
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES LEVELING THE FIELD A devastating hitter with 127 tackles in '02, Boulware put off his NFL dream to help right the Seminoles' ship.
2002 RECORD 9-5 (7-1, 1st in ACC)
FINAL AP RANK 21
RETURNING STARTERS 15
KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)
QB Chris Rix (Jr.)
Needs to display maturity and consistency
RB Greg Jones (Sr.)
Returning from season-ending knee injury
LB Michael Boulware (Sr.)
Speedy playmaker with All-America potential
LB Kendyll Pope (Sr.)
Led Seminoles with 131 tackles
DT Darnell Dockett (Sr.)
Must recover all-ACC form of two years ago
Combined losses in 2001 and 2002, highest total in back-to-back
seasons in Bobby Bowden's 27 years in Tallahassee.
After a messy year of suspensions and scandals, university
president T.K. Wetherell ordered an independent investigation of
the athletic department. Leadership and discipline have been
Bobby Bowden's top priority over the off-season, so expect this
year's team to be more responsible.
AUG. 30 AT NORTH CAROLINA
SEPT. 6 MARYLAND
13 GEORGIA TECH
27 AT DUKE
OCT. 11 MIAMI
18 AT VIRGINIA
25 WAKE FOREST
NOV. 1 AT NOTRE DAME
8 AT CLEMSON
15 N.C. STATE
29 AT FLORIDA