ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Garett Bolles has been quick to describe himself as once being a “lost kid” who found his way.
On Thursday night, that journey from his troubled past took an enormously positive step as the Denver Broncos made the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Bolles their first-round draft pick and perhaps their future left tackle.
“I’m beyond grateful. This is just a dream come true,” Bolles said.
Bolles immediately set the highest of expectations for himself.
“I’m planning to start as soon as possible, that’s my goal,” he said. ” … You can count on me to come in and work my butt off. I want to earn that spot. I don’t want it handed to me, I want to earn it.”
Bolles has been open with NFL teams throughout the pre-draft process about the difficulties he encountered and created himself in his childhood. It was trouble that included, Bolles said, drug use, arrests and jail time.
“I always believed in myself and believed I could get here, I just didn’t know how,” Bolles said.
Things were so bad his father, Grove Bolles, kicked him out of the house. Bolles has credited his lacrosse coach, Greg Freeman, and Freeman’s family for righting his path. Bolles said at the scouting combine earlier this year he still calls Emily Freeman “mom.”
“My lowest points was just, you know, I had to learn,” Bolles has said. “When you’re young and dumb and you’re trying to figure out your life, you go through things. But I take those mistakes that I learned and it created the person I am today. Without those mistakes, I wouldn’t be standing here … because sometimes you have to go through things to realize where you’re going to go. So I had to go through some of those low points in life, but I’m grateful that I went through those because it turned me into the man I am today.”
All of that meant it took Bolles longer to reach the NFL, including two years repairing garages, a two-year LDS mission — in Colorado Springs — to go with junior college and his time at Utah. Bolles, who brought his infant son with him on stage Thursday night and draped the boy in a Broncos jersey, will turn 25 in late May and will join a Broncos roster a rookie older than many of his teammates.
From a football perspective Bolles will immediately be in the discussion for the left tackle job — with Ty Sambrailo, a former second-round pick for the Broncos. Bolles plays with an edge and has crossed the line at times on the field when he has been flagged for some unnecessary penalties along the way.
At the scouting combine he described his play as: “When I’m on the field, I want to put people in the dirt. And that’s what I’m here for. As an offensive lineman, you want to be the nasty (player) that you can be. And whoever’s in front of me, I want to drive them and put them in the dirt. So I’m just going to try to be that every single day. And when I come off the field, I love my family. I just learned how to turn the switch to go back to the new Garett.”