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Garett Bolles: From the streets to the Broncos

Bolles is out to prove John Elway and Denver right. As Bolles has done since he was 19, he’s thrived when people doubt him.

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SiriusXM At The 2017 NFL Draft Photo by Lisa Lake/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Garett Bolles was lost.

He was 19 and had just been kicked to the curb like yesterday’s trash by his father, Grove. As Thomas George wrote in a SB Nation story prior to the NFL Draft, was it disrespect? Drugs? The wrong crowd?

“All of that, and much more,” Bolles told George. “I was a lost kid.”

Since Bolles was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round a little over a week ago, we’ve heard a lot about the pick and what it means for the organization. What it means for the offensive line. For the offense. We’ve heard how much people initially didn’t like the Broncos selection of Bolles, but have since come around. We’ve heard that he carries a big “bust” potential. Some still flat hate the pick. As I said in my column shortly after the pick, there’s way too much we don’t know to make bold proclamations one way or the other. Let’s give it some time.

What we haven’t really heard in the Mile High Report community is how Bolles got here and what he’s overcome to do so. When you hear that story you get a new appreciation for who Bolles is, how honest he is and what he’ll do to make the best of this incredible situation. You’ll see he’ll do whatever it takes, because that defines his life.

The initial light Bolles needed to lead him out of the darkness came when he was 19 from Greg and Emily Freeman. They took Bolles off the streets but gave him strict rules and lofty expectations. Emily told the Salt Lake Tribune in August of last year that she thought Bolles would last a few weeks before they would kick him to the curb, too. She said Greg thought Bolles would last three days.

Even then people didn’t think much of Bolles. If they had expectations, it was that he would continue to fail. He had to prove the Freemans wrong, and he was determined to do it. What he needed was one more person to believe him, to give him that push to change.

As George wrote in his story, something then clicked in Bolles.

“God changed me,” Bolles said.

George asked him, “from what to what?”

“From old to new,” Bolles told George. “From someone I didn’t even recognize anymore. My life was crazy. Adversity changed me.”

As George wrote:

After moving in with the Freemans, Bolles traveled for missionary work, enrolled at Snow Junior College in Ephraim, Utah, where he played football, transferred and starred at Utah for one season, married Natalie, had a four-month-old son Kingston, patched things with his father and is here at the draft, a prime, practical, likely first-round pick.

The change in Bolles was obvious and teams took notice. That was evident when John Elway used his No. 20 pick to bring him to the Broncos. But it also was clear before the draft.

As one NFL head coach told George in the days leading up to the annual event:

"I met with Garett Bolles at the combine and I was so blown away with him that we had him in for a visit afterward. We had no initial plans to do the follow-up. But he left us no choice. And he came in here and we saw more of what we first saw. This is what you want in a football player, a guy who’s been through some things who is tough. I am a total believer in his change and in his ability. I don’t know if he is going to fall to us, but we have our radar way up for him in this draft.’’

Elway and the Broncos took a chance on Bolles. He’s out to prove Elway and the organization was right to do so.

“I’m a big teddy bear off the field, so I definitely love Mr. Elway,” Bolles said in his initial news conference with the organization. “He took a chance on me when a lot of teams passed me up and he believed in me. All I needed was one team to fall in love with me and that’s exactly what the Denver Broncos organization did. They fell in love with me and that’s what it took.

“Like I said, I did say I love you because I appreciated what he did. He could’ve chosen a lot of other people, but he chose me to come in and make a big impact with this great organization. That’s what I plan on doing. I told him that I’m not going to let him down. I’m going to work my butt off to get what he wants out of me, and that’s a promise.”

What sold me even more on Bolles is his violent attitude on the field. He wants to kick the shit out of you, knock you to the ground and then do it all over again. That comes from his start in football when he played defensive tackle. Bolles takes that same approach to the offensive line, and it will impact his fellow line mates. It’s an attitude Denver’s offensive line hasn’t had since Tom Nalen retired.

“If you watch the Hogs and the Washington Redskins back in the day, those were guys who were mean machines, and that’s what it takes to be an offensive lineman,” he said. “You want to be like those guys, and that’s what Mr. Elway teaches. He wants tough guys that come in here and get the job done and hold up front. That’s where it starts, is in the trenches, and we have a great group of guys here.

“There’s a lot of great talent here, and I’m just excited to work with them. It’s not just me who’s going to come and make an impact. It’s all five of us working together as one to get what we need to go to another Super Bowl because that’s what we plan on doing here.”

Life has a way of coming full circle.

For Bolles, Greg and Emily Freeman gave him the initial light he needed to find his way. They gave him the chance but he had to do it on his own. It took a lot of dedication and hard work, but he proved them right.

Now Bolles is out to do it all over again, just now it’s on the football field in the NFL for the Broncos. With everything he’s overcome to make this happen, there’s no reason to think he won’t do it again. As Bolles has done since he was 19, he’s thrived when people doubt him.

“They’re here with me today and I love them dearly,” Bolles said about the Freemans. “I get emotional when I talk about that family because they mean the world to me. Years ago when they picked me off the streets in 2011, that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I realized what a family is, what love is and how a structured family is. That’s how I want to raise my son, and how I want my wife to raise my son. They’re great parents and they always will be my parents. I reach out to them all the time.

“They’re going to be here with me, they’re only eight hours away, so anytime I need something they’re going to be here for me. They always will be for the rest of my life. They’re a safe place where I can call my mom and dad, and I love them dearly. I give them so much credit for me being able to reach my dreams and to stand in front of you all today.”

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