Now seems like a good time to roll out that quote again from the offensive line coach that had both Clint Boling and Andrew Whitworth in college.
"They're similar guys," Stacy Searels said not long after the Bengals drafted Boling last year. "Smart guys. Tough guys. Versatile. Football is important to them. I wouldn't be surprised if Clint grew into some kind of leader like Whit after he moved up the ladder. They've kind of got the same personality."
Well, he's getting up there on the ladder.
Now Whitworth is playing on the same side with Boling assuming the starting role at left guard in the wake of Travelle Wharton's season-ending knee injury. When the Bengals took Boling in the fourth round a year after Searels coached him at Georgia, Searels texted Whitworth and told him to take Boling under his wing. Whitworth, who played for Searels at LSU, did exactly that and is the resident Boling expert.
"I've done a little bit of everything. I've trained with him in the offseason, played basketball with him, you name it," Whitworth said after Sunday's practice. "He has a lot of athleticism that is going to come out as he gets more comfortable as a player.
"He's hungry and ready for his opportunity. He's shown that in this training camp to this point. He was kind of one of those people knocking on the door. 'Man, this guy is on the verge of taking somebody's spot. He's playing well.' You hate the way it happened. He's getting an opportunity and he's got to make the most of it."
Boling also shares with Whitworth a laser seriousness that burns with competitiveness, whether it's swinging a golf club or inputting a playbook. He didn't seize the opportunity Sunday. He grabbed it by the throat back in January following his rookie season that ended on the bench after he started the first three games at right guard while Bobbie Williams served his NFL suspension.
Told by offensive line coach Paul Alexander he needed to work on staying low and getting stronger, Boling immediately went to the trainer he's had since 10th grade near his hometown of Alpharetta, Ga., Ryan Goldin and his fitness firm of GATA.
Naturally, Boling comes home Thursday to make his first start at left guard in Atlanta (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19).
"I came back this offseason and told him these are the things I want to get better at and he put a great program together for me," Boling said. "Obviously the strength staff here, I had a great offseason here, too. Chip (Morton) and those guys do a great job, too."
Boling stunned Goldin back when he was a sophomore at Chattahoochee High School and followed every morsel on his eating itinerary. He went from a lanky 6-5, 220-pound tight end to a 270-pound senior that so impressed the coaches at a University of Georgia camp that the Bulldogs offered a scholarship.
"That's how serious he is. He's the only 10th-grader I can remember that ate only what he was supposed to eat," Goldin said Sunday night as he talked about how Boling attacked this offseason.
"We added in a 'weak link' prescription of exercises. One of those was hip flexibility and core strength. He was committed to improve that. He knew what he needed to do and he went at it. That was the edge. People can see his hips having a better range of motion and that's very important (for explosion)."
Goldin says Boling worked a total of nine hours four days a week with three of the hours on the field and the weak link prescription as a daily regimen.
"He got stronger, but is still about 311 pounds," Goldin said.
While the Wharton injury hurts the team's depth, no one seems to be pushing the bat phone in the situation room now that Boling is the guy. It gives you an idea of how well he's played this camp and the karma he exudes.
"He's just so steady," Goldin said. "I mean I know he must have good and bad days in practice, but with us, no matter what he's doing, he's always the same: steady."
Left guard is about the only place Boling didn't play at Georgia. He started 49 games with at least nine of them at three different positions. While becoming the rarest of breeds (an active player named to a school's all-decade team), Boling started 28 games at right guard, 12 at left tackle, and nine at right tackle.
But since he arrived in Cincinnati, he's added left guard to the résumé, if only in practice.
"I did a lot last year. I didn't do a ton in college, but last year I played a lot and training camp I played a lot," Boling said. "I feel comfortable at all three positions. Now I'll probably work more at left guard. I feel comfortable there."
Boling says the main thing he has to do is get used to Whitworth since he's been playing next to backup left tackle Anthony Collins and backup right tackle Dennis Roland.
But they're already on the same wavelength. If Whitworth was a top junior golfer in Louisiana, then Boling was an all-region schoolboy basketball player and helped lure Searels when he scouted him at a game where he slashed to the basket.
"I didn't come too far out of the paint," Boling said. "(But) I had a nice little dunk that game."
If there are fears about Boling working on a new side, now is probably a good time to conjure up another Searels quote from May 2011:
"There were a lot of times I would rotate so I could keep the five best out there and I would take Clint from guard and move him to left tackle. It might have affected him a little bit. I think he's the kind of guy that could finish a game for you at left tackle in the NFL. The experience should help him. If you're not 'The Guy' in the pros, and there aren't many of them, you're going to have to play a couple of different spots if they're going to keep you. Even Whit didn't come in as a left tackle."
Or this quote Sunday from offensive coordinator Jay Gruden:
"The thing that is so appealing about him is you have to play smart. We change protections and do a lot of things at the line. If you're not smart you have no chance. He has to get down, he was getting pushed around last year but now he is doing better."
Now that Whitworth, 30, and Boling, 23, are literally joined at the hip, Boling is hoping he's not going to hear what Whitworth says to him if he unleashes a long but wayward drive.
"He'll say something like, 'Whoa, what was that?' And he'll get on you like that in football," Boling said. "I hope I don't get any of those on the field."
Boling, Whitworth and backup quarterback Zac Robinson played golf after nearly every workout in May and June, and the steady Boling would be right there with something in the mid-to-high 80s. Whitworth, about five to six shots better, sees the same kind of athleticism in the younger man as well as long distance impact.
"He's got a chance to develop into a leader; Clint definitely has that in him," Whitworth said. "He's very focused. The game means something to him and he's got a chance to show how committed he is."
Boling wouldn't mind following in Whitworth's footsteps, complete with the lower handicap.
"Obviously Whit's a huge leader on this team. He's a real important and great guy," Boling said. "He helps the younger guys out and he helps me out a ton. If one day I can help somebody else, that'd be great, too."
It looks like one day is here.