On the one hand, he talks about how professor Marc Hudsons introduction to Shakespeare class changed his life. On the other side is the fierce, hard-hitting, four-year starting linebacker on the Wabash football team.
by Jim Amidon 87
That sort of anonymity is precisely what Boulais, an English major, was looking for in a study abroad program. Back home at Wabash, he is the quintessential big man on campus.
Perugia is a tiny town in Italy, but there are five universities there and 30,000 students from all over the world, he says, a smile creeping over his face. There are fewer than 100 Americans in the whole city, so being there teaches you to adapt to the culture and make your own way.
Boulais speaks in romantic terms as he describes how he always had wanted to go to Italy to become immersed in Roman culture, art, history, and food. While there, he fell in love with Italian Renaissance art, the slower pace of life, and, most of all, the way Italians savor the moment.
His timing was pretty goodthe U.S. was at war with Afghanistanfor observing the perceptions Europeans have about the United States. He acknowledges that the classic stereotypes are normal, but says it was good to get another perspective.
They see us as self righteous and aggressive, which really didnt surprise me, he says. But it was fascinating to go out to dinner with virtual strangers and just listen to the way they view the world.
Talking with Boulais conjures up all sorts of images. One wonders if, after slicing an opposing running back in half in a blurred moment of brutal violence, he offers the fallen player a cup of espresso and serving of tiramisu.
This soft-spoken scholar is Mr. Hyde on the gridiron. He locked up the HCACs Defensive Rookie of the Year after a season in which his crushing style of play caught the attention of every conference coach. He continues to pile up huge numbers of tackles. He reads, reacts, and pummels opponents. There is no mercy when Boulais takes the field.
I love football and I came here to be a part of a championship program, says Boulais, who prepped at perennial state championship contender Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Hes brought that same intensity to the Wabash football program.
But he almost didnt come. He says he grew up more during the 20 minutes of his interview for a Wabash Lilly Fellowship than in any time of his life. He didnt win a Lilly, but it was a personal letter from President Andy Fordreceived just a few days laterthat sealed the deal.
I felt awful after the interview, he recalls. I was stuttering and stammering, and at the end, I was standing on my chair singing a song from a musical I was in. But then, to get a letter from the President telling me how much he admired my spirit told me that people here cared about me. I knew then that I could do well here.
Now hes a confident member of the Sphinx Club and Phi Delta Theta. Hes doing things he wants to do and not those that others expect of him. No regrets seems to be his personal motto.
At Wabash Ive learned that you need to work hard and play hard, he says. I think Ive learned a lot about balance here; you have to have balance in life, and now I know whats important to me. Outside of football, I focus my time on the personal side of Wabashdeveloping relationships with friends, professors, and mentors has taught me how to address conflicts, adversity, and to get outside the box and look at the world in a different way.
Thats a pretty philosophical outlook for a guy who loves eating speedy wide receivers for Saturday afternoon lunch. And hes looking forward to his senior season, especially with high expectations after winning the last seven games of the 2001 season.
I think we have a great opportunity this year, he says, the boyish smile returning to his face. Weve got seniors who get along and have the chemistry and maturity to accomplish our goals. And beyond that, weve got a lot of guys who just love the game of football and who love each other. So what ever happens, happens.
Sounds as if Boulais learned a lot from his Italian semester, and seems perfectly content savoring each and every moment of his Wabash experience.