INDIANAPOLIS — The name is Garett Grovsner Bolles. That’s one R in Garett, two Ts and an endless supply of inspirational quotes that draw you to wanting to know more about the incredibly gifted player who almost threw it all away before he ever had a chance.
Bolles is not your typical NFL draft prospect. And he doesn’t have your everyday story, either.
The Utah offensive tackle only played one year of Division-I ball, turns 25 a month after the draft and has taken — you could say — the long road to success. That road included being suspended or kicked out of five schools during his rough teenage years, using drugs, spending time in jail after multiple run-ins with the law and eventually getting kicked out of his house by his own father, left to live on the street with his possessions in trash bags.
Now Bolles — on the verge of his NFL dreams as a high-round talent — says he is “a changed man, and I know exactly what I want and where I’m going. I just got married a year ago. I have a son, so I’ve got to take care of them and show them what I’m going to do.”
None of that was clear a few years ago, before he cleaned up, was pulled off the streets by his surrogate family and before serving a two-year LDS mission. He spent time working on cars at a garage, adhered to a strict up-early, asleep-early regiment and cut out the bad influences and people from his life. Without that, Bolles isn’t coming close to any NFL fields without a paid ticket. Now he could be a starting left tackle in time.
Bolles played two years at Snow College and then a year at Utah, flashing incredible athleticism and a mean streak that stands out on tape. He’s been able, he says, to harness all that anger he had from a tough childhood and funnel it onto the football field, taking it out on his opponents.
“When I’m on the field, I want to put people in the dirt,” Bolles said Thursday. “And that’s what I’m here for. As an offensive lineman, you want to be the nasty prick that you can be. And whoever is 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 to go back to the new Garett.”
How do you not love that? Bolles alternates spitting fire about football and spending time reflecting on the love of his life and how she has helped change him for the better.
“Being married is a wonderful thing,” he said. “You get to work together as a companionship and you get to conquer this world together. And that’s exactly what we do. Every time I come home, I give my wife a beautiful kiss and I hold my son and we just sit there together as a family. And I’m just beyond blessed that I get to live these experiences with them.”
You get the sense, listening to Bolles, that none of this is a bit contrived. He spoke with passion and intent. He spoke as if this truly was a second chance in life he’s not about to blow. Football for Bolles is both his outlet and his therapy, it turns out.
“Football is the greatest game that anyone’s created on this earth,” Bolles said. “It’s a game where you can literally beat somebody up and get away from it.”
Memo to the team that drafts Bolles: Never let him get too far from a microphone. He speaks with the voice of Ivan Drago, maybe if you marinated it in something Cajun. You could spend hours listening to his colorful phrases, yes, but you might spend just as much time trying to figure out his accent. Best yet: You get the sense that everything he says it earnest, not a bit of it contrived.
But teams clearly will be drafting for non-entertainment reasons. He’s not a perfect prospect — not at a few years older than most of the players in this class, not weighing in a few pounds short of 300 pounds at the scouting combine, not with so little football in his background. But Bolles tries to spin all this as a positive.
“My age is a positive,” he said. “I do not hold my age at all. I’m 24 and I’ve only played football for three years, and that’s what I want people to know. I have so much upside, and I have so [many] things to improve on and get better. My better days are ahead of me, and so I know I can just continue to learn football in general and just continue to work hard.”
Also working for him: A strong combine workout that included a 4.95-second 40-yard dash and a 115-inch broad jump.
He has spent time refining his craft with San Francisco 49ers tackle Joe Staley before and has come a long way with his technique. Bolles might be the most athletic tackle — one evaluator predicted he’d set the 3-cone drill record at the combine — in what’s viewed as a weak crop of talent at the position, so it would be a surprise to see him falling out of Round 2, even with his flaws. Bolles even could crack Round 1 if he continues trending upward. That’s how special he has become in a short period of time.
And after a lot of distractions that derailed his life early on, Bolles is back on track and not about to blow his chance at something special.
“I have the dog inside of me,” he said, “and that’s what I believe I have going for me. I have the dog and I know exactly what I want to do.”
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