TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Michael Boulware has spent most of his childhood being told about the accomplishments of one family member or another. That happens when your father is a doctor and your brothers and sisters were either star students or athletes - or both.
Around Florida State, Boulware is constantly being asked about one of his big brothers - former Seminoles All-American and current Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware. Michael Boulware is looking forward to the day when the comparisons are more about the plays he makes rather than the name and jersey number they share.
"I knew it was going to be a big challenge because of Peter being here," Michael Boulware, a junior who'll turn 21 Tuesday, said one afternoon last week. "It was as if living in his shadow was a reminder that I have to do some of the things he had done."
The youngest Boulware - who chose to wear his brother's No. 58 as a sophomore after picking No. 57 as a freshman - began creating his own legacy here last season.
Two weeks after returning a fumble 73 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Miami, Boulware contributed significantly to Florida State's 52-31 victory over Maryland. He made a career-high 11 tackles and returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown.
At the time of Boulware's interception, the Seminoles were behind 14-0.
"As far as helping the team out, it was probably the biggest play I've made here," said Boulware, who would lead Florida State last season with three interceptions and was fourth in tackles with 81. "I think it kind of turned the tide in our favor."
That his starring role has come on defense isn't much of a surprise to those who have followed Boulware since his freshman year, when he led the kickoff team in tackles while playing behind former Dunbar star Tommy Polley at outside linebacker.
But it is still a little bittersweet.
Recruited heavily by Clemson as a receiver - he caught 56 passes for 1,028 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C. - Boulware hoped he could persuade Bobby Bowden and the rest of the Florida State coaches to give him a chance on offense.
"I still think I'm a better receiver than a linebacker. That's where my heart is," said Boulware, who is 6 feet 3 and 212 pounds and had a 40-yard time of 4.34 seconds in high school. "But I know the best way for me to get to the next level is at linebacker."
Said Bowden: "We figured he was going to grow too big for a receiver."
The reason Boulware chose Florida State over Clemson, Tennessee and Notre Dame was not just his brother's success, but the pipeline the Seminoles seemingly have had to the NFL. Boulware will certainly be scouted by the pros, because the Seminoles have replaced Penn State as Linebacker U.
Peter Boulware said his baby brother reminds him more of former Florida State teammate and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks than he does of himself.
"He's a playmaker," the older Boulware said earlier this week. "I think it takes a special sense to be in the right place at the right time. He [Michael] knows how to do that. With all the advice I can give him, most of what he does he does on his own."
Michael Boulware said having his big brother just a phone call away is a nice security blanket for any player.
"Anytime I need a tip, I can call him," said Michael Boulware, who watched from the stands in Tampa when the Ravens beat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. "It's like stealing."
Given his progress, not to mention his bloodlines, Michael Boulware is likely to get his chance to play in the NFL. But unlike his big brother, who left here as the fourth overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft after his redshirt junior season, the younger Boulware figures on completing his eligibility.
"I'm basically playing it by ear," said Boulware, who has started solidly but unspectacularly this season, with seven solo tackles and five assisted tackles in victories over Iowa State and Virginia. "I don't think I'll be good enough yet. He [Peter] had nothing left to prove."
A defensive end, Peter Boulware was the school's single-season leader in sacks (19 in 1996) and was 1.5 sacks shy of the career record. Another brother, Raleigh, played at Georgia Tech and is now an engineer in Atlanta. Their sister, Kala, ran track and cross country at Notre Dame and is a psychiatrist.
Michael Boulware has been told he gets his athletic talent from his mother, Melva, who played high school basketball in Tennessee. Following in the footsteps of his siblings - as well as his father, James, a radiological oncologist - could have been daunting to some kids.
"I think it can be a double-edged sword," James Boulware said by telephone from Columbia earlier this week. "The name recognition may sometimes help, but it may cause more pressure to exceed the accomplishments of those who came before. If you were doing it on your own, it might be easier."
Michael Boulware is at Florida State mainly to prepare for a career in the NFL, and it apparently doesn't bother his father in the least.
"In terms of financial security, you can do more on the football field than you can with two Ph.D.s," said James Boulware, alluding to the recent seven-year, $42 million contract Peter Boulware signed with the Ravens. "Hopefully he [Michael] is not going to put all his eggs in one basket."
Admittedly not as serious about his studies as he is about football, Michael Boulware possesses another passion - his strong religious faith. Last March, he was part of a church group that traveled to South Africa to visit for a week with disadvantaged children.
"It changed my perspective about leaving the country," said Boulware. "Now I want to see the world. I realize that, even as a college student, I have a lot more things than other people. I'm a lot more grateful for what I have. I think I have a responsibility and the status to use football as a platform."
Boulware also has newfound responsibility among his teammates. After spring practice, Bowden made Boulware and fellow junior Anquan Boldin alternate captains for this year's team, the first time the venerable coach bestowed that honor on a non-senior.
Though their skills differ because of the positions they played in college, the Boulwares share a couple of key attributes, according to Bowden.
"Their attitude and intensity are very much the same," said Bowden.
Senior defensive end Alonzo Jackson has watched the younger Boulware since the two used to get up for preseason workouts two years ago at 6 a.m. He remembers a freshman whose eyes "were wide open" and now sees a junior who is still trying to step out of his big brother's shoes.
"He has a lot to live up to," said Jackson.
It is nothing new for the youngest member of a very accomplished family.