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Wednesday, August 17, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


Boulware has great expectations

Seattle Times staff reporter

CHENEY — Here's Michael Boulware after practice Monday, running extra sprints for no reason other than because he wants to, coloring his shirt with polka-dot pools of sweat.

"I can't live off what I did in the past," Boulware says.

There's Boulware in the offseason, watching tape of every game played the year before by the Seahawks' NFC West rivals. Not once, but two or three viewings per team, on tapes that contained everything except the ample highlights provided by the man himself.

"That's over and gone with," Boulware says.

And there's Boulware on July 4, home in South Carolina, washing dishes and taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn.

The message: Life will not change for Boulware because of what he did last season.

"Last year is dead to me," Boulware says.

Camp highlights: Day 16

Practices: Full practice in the morning; short special-teams practice in the afternoon.

Big plays: In the morning practice, WR Jerome Pathon caught a fade route in the left corner of the end zone from QB Matt Hasselbeck. The play went over the head of CB Jordan Babineaux, who later let a sure interception from Hasselbeck bounce off his shoulder pads onto the turf, drawing the ire of defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes. Babineaux redeemed himself later with a Willie Mays-style, over-the-shoulder interception of a pass from Hasselbeck intended for WR Bobby Engram. DT Craig Terrill intercepted a batted pass to loud cheers from defensive teammates.

Temperatures: 73 in the morning; 88 in the afternoon.

Snapshot: The practice field fell silent shortly after 10 a.m. when backup T Wayne Hunter fell the ground and clutched his right knee. Hunter rose on his own and limped over to the trainers, who examined the knee while Hunter winced in pain. After practice, coach Mike Holmgren addressed the injury: "It's too early," he said. "He tweaked his knee a little bit. I don't think it's real bad. We will see."

Greg Bishop

Boulware effectively made three transformations last season — a college linebacker turned NFL safety turned late-game savior who clinched the division title for the Seahawks.

To recap: Boulware made late, game-saving interceptions against Minnesota and Tampa Bay, returned an interception for a touchdown against Miami and picked himself off the ground to chase down speedy Michael Lewis on a second-half kick return against New Orleans.

You could argue that Boulware gift-wrapped four of the Seahawks' nine wins. All from a guy scouts labeled too small to play linebacker and too slow to play safety. All during a season few expected.

Except for the family that has always expected more.

"It didn't surprise me at all," says Melva Boulware, Michael's mother, via telephone from South Carolina the other day. "It really didn't."

Melva Boulware always demanded perfection from her children. Same with Dr. Raleigh Boulware, the family patriarch.

The way Melva saw things, her children started school with A's in all their classes. They could only go down from there. Same with football. No such thing as a missed tackle, not even in practice. No such thing as a missed assignment, in school, in football or in life.

Anything less prompted a "long, intense talk," Michael says. He grew more weary of these discussions every time they happened, but he noticed something more important. The closer he came to being perfect, the more they went away.

"Sometimes I felt really little and worthless," he says. "But it made me work harder."

Melva Boulware is tough. Tougher than his teachers. Tougher than his coaches. Tougher than anyone around here, Michael Boulware says, wagging his finger around the Seahawks complex.

Boulware didn't hesitate this week when asked to determine who is tougher — his mom or Ray Rhodes, the Seahawks' notorious curmudgeon of a defensive coordinator.

Melva, by a landslide.

And that toughness carried over to young Michael, who still has trouble letting go of his mistakes. It carried over to his older brother, Peter, who played linebacker on Baltimore's famed Super Bowl defense and is currently looking for another team.

"Sometimes, I'm accused of being brutally honest," Melva Boulware says. "Sometimes, I'm honest to a fault. But I can tell you this: Honesty works.

"I mean, if somebody has a dirty face and you don't say it's dirty, then they don't know to wash it."

So anybody wondering if all of Michael Boulware's big plays will lead to a big head need not worry as long as Melva is in charge. He knows there are more plays to make, more games to win, more people to impress.

He's Melva's boy. The kind who sprinkles his interviews with "yes, sir," who doesn't view himself ready to be a defensive captain, who won't take credit for all those wins all those journalists gave him credit for last season.

So what will Michael Boulware do for an encore?

"My family is all about raising the bar," he says. "I had a stellar rookie year. This year has to be better."

As to what that means, Boulware isn't sharing. His goals are already written inside his head, but he remains coy when asked for specifics. Maybe more interceptions. Maybe more sacks. But more will come, he says, you can rest assured of that.

Coach Mike Holmgren also comes from the school of brutal honesty. He thought Boulware had a lousy practice Monday and didn't hesitate in sharing. The key for Holmgren is consistency.

"He's just a wonderful young man," Holmgren says. "He has to understand that he's still learning. He's getting publicity, but he's not the type of player that lets that stuff go to his head."

As for the possibility that the Seahawks will sign Peter, and the Boulware brothers will be reunited?

"That would be wonderful," Melva says. "Tell the Seahawks to make him an offer."

Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company




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