CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Garett Bolles’ story strains elasticity of the imagination.
When it happened at 8:31 p.m. Thursday night, when the Broncos selected him with the 20th pick of the first round, it sounded simple. Big, athletic brute with a mean streak and agile feet – he checks all the boxes for a starting left tackle.
"He plays nasty with toughness," general manager John Elway told Denver7 after his press conference Thursday. "He's the perfect fit."
There was nothing easy or ideal about Bolles' journey to the NFL. He was admittedly a “lost” soul. Poor behavior led him to attend five high schools in four years. It become so bad, his father Grove kicked him out of the house.
Homeless and rudderless, Bolles' life changed when his former youth lacrosse coach Greg Freeman and his wife Emily took him. He worked in the garage door repair business. During rides to work with Greg, a transformation began to occur. Bolles loved his job, and began taking a more longterm view on life. He served a two-year Mormon mission in Colorado Springs, a place he told Denver7 he “loved… it changed my life.” He entered Snow College as a project, and quickly found a home as an offensive lineman. By his second JUCO season, he ranked as the country’s top prospect. He stayed home, playing for Utah.
At 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, he showed strength, power and mobility. And he played with an edge, leading to numerous penalties. But it created fear in opponents. That last trait can’t be overstated as the Broncos spent the offseason reshaping their offensive line with tougher, meaner guys in guard Ron Leary and tackle Menelik Watson.
“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 (expletive) that you can be,” Bolles said at the NFL combine in February. “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.”
Everything about Bolles is different now. He is married to wife Natalie with a child Kingston. Both attended the draft in Philadelphia with him. At 24, he has undergone an amazing transformation.
"He's a really good athlete. Good awareness defending pass rush stunts (which crushed the Broncos last year). Good hands," former Pro Bowl lineman and 104.3 The Fan's Mark Schlereth told Denver7 on Thursday. "Good hands and body position when he strikes defensive players. Finishes blocks with a nasty attitude."
The next step is to become a starting lineman for a Broncos team that needs help upfront. He won't back down. Elway expects him to compete for a starting job. If Bolles develops into a core player, it frees up money to pursue other needs. Bolles is line to make approximately $11.078 million with a $6.179 million signing bonus in his four-year rookie deal.
The Broncos are not concerned about his age. The Broncos zeroed in on Bolles, believing he has a greater upside than Wisconsin's Ryan Ramcyzk, who went to the Saints.
"If Garett is the player we think he is...it solves a problem for a long time," Elway said. "Athletically, we love the way he played the game, the mentality he brings to the game."
Bolles, who turns 25 next month, could not hide his excitement. His time in Colorado Springs shaped his view.
"I get to bring family back to Colorado where served my mission so Denver I am coming back home," Bolles said. "I will bring a physical style of play."