When Stacy Searels saw the Bengals draft one of his linemen a few weeks ago in the fourth round, he immediately texted another.
"He's a good one; take him under your wing," Searels blinked to Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
Searels knew that Whitworth would look after guard Clint Boling even if he didn't ask. So it was no surprise when he heard that Boling had been at Whitworth's charity golf tournament in West Monroe, La., a few weeks ago and stayed behind for a few days to work with some of his new linemates.
"They're similar guys," Searels says. "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."
He should know. Searels coached the left side of the Bengals line at LSU, Whitworth and guard Nate Livings, before becoming the offensive line coach at Georgia. That's where he recruited the 6-5, 308-pound Boling out of Chattahoochee High School. Searels can't say what he really said when he saw Boling dunk during a basketball game, but he can say he thinks the Bengals have uncovered a Whit-like gem. If Whitworth was a junior tennis champion growing up, then Boling could jam.
"Maybe it was something like, 'Daggone it.' You just don't see an offensive lineman do that very often," Searels says. "Both guys are real good athletes. They're just different. Whit is a huge mass. Clint could run the floor, pass, shoot, do just about everything. I've played golf with Whit, so I know what kind of athlete he is, too."
At 6-7, 335 pounds, no one seems to be as quite as big as Whitworth. Searels figures Boling went about 265 pounds in high school and his ensuing work in the weight room reflects his commitment.
Some draftnicks registered concern that Boling may not have some pop at the NFL point of attack. But, remember, after the Bengals took Whitworth in the second round five years ago there were those that questioned his athleticism at NFL left tackle and ignored his résumé of 52 starts in which he allowed just one sack in his last two seasons. Now after 45 starts at NFL left tackle that includes a division title and multi-sack shutouts of James Harrison and Terrell Suggs, there are no questions about Whitworth even if he's not the computer printout left tackle.
And the draftnicks seem to have come to the same conclusion about Boling as Searels has. Technique, smarts and seasoning project him "to be a solid player in the NFL for a long time."
Boling can point to the same SEC pedigree. While Whitworth was one shy of the NCAA Division I record for starts, Boling started 49 games for Georgia 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.
"I'll never forget the first game Clint started," Searels says of that freshman season. "It was in Alabama and it was a big crowd, of course, and he went out there like he had played a lot of ball."
Searels also won't forget that game Boling's sophomore year against Tennessee when left tackle Vince Vance blew out his knee in the second quarter and Boling moved from right guard to replace him in a game Georgia punished the Vols on more than 42 minutes of possession.
"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," Searels says. "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."
Whitworth jockeyed between left guard and left tackle and by the time he became the Opening Day left tackle in 2009, he had 25 starts at guard and 13 at tackle. After this draft, offensive line coach Paul Alexander indicated he doesn't see Boling jumping into the starting lineup at guard but he loves to move his rookies all over the place so keep an eye on him.
"He's a consistent player; he's not flashy," Searels says. "But all he does is go out and do what he's supposed to do. He gets the job done. And he's a humble guy."
If he doesn't sound like Whitworth's little brother, who does? Searels is thrilled that Boling is going to be lining up with Whitworth. He recently moved on to become the line coach at Texas, but he still keeps in touch with Whitworth even though he's two jobs removed from his LSU stint. Whitworth sent him a picture of his baby twins and Searels has filled him in on Boling.
"Andrew Whitworth may be the hardest worker I ever had when it came to preparation; unbelievable," Searels says. "This is going to be a big help for Clint. I thought that would help him, going to a place where he knows someone who a similar background in style. It's going to make life easier."
Not to mention some interesting pickup basketball games.