Garett Bolles: From drugs and arrests to faith, fatherhood and potential stardom

From drugs, arrests and being kicked out of his home, to salvation, fatherhood and now the chance to play for the Denver Broncos, Garett Bolles’ journey is a testament to the 25-year-old’s passion and work ethic, and the power of family and faith.

Bolles’ troubles first came at a young age. As a teenager, he was kicked out of five schools, and was arrested in 2010 after vandalizing rival Lehi High School’s campus. Add drugs, ditching class and a carefree attitude, and it was just another case of a talented athlete letting his abilities go to waste. Then came 2011, when Bolles found himself without a home, after his father, Grove, kicked him out.

Enter Greg and Emily Freeman, Bolles’ saving grace.

The Freemans took in Bolles as their own, and through their strict tutelage helped him turn his life around.

“I get emotional when I talk about that family,” Bolles said at his introductory press conference on Friday, “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.”

The Freemans get just as emotional talking about Bolles, as seen in this incredibly touching video posted by the Denver Broncos on Monday morning. It’s a video conversation between Greg, Emily and Garett that words really can’t describe.

Greg was Bolles’ lacrosse coach, and also worked in the garage repair business. Bolles worked side-by-side with Greg for two years but took a recess from the garage, completing a Mission in Colorado Springs with the Church of Latter Day Saints. That Mission, Bolles said, helped establish the discipline needed to succeed in the NFL.

“Mission is awesome,” he said. “It just teaches you obedience and how to follow strict rules, and that’s what it takes to be in this league. You’ve got to follow strict rules. You’ve got to make sure you’re eating right, working out right, practicing hard, watching film and doing everything like that. That’s how it is in Mission.”

Upon his return from Mission, Bolles felt football calling his name once again.

He was determined to use his talents to the fullest, and did just that. He attended Snow College for two years, signed with Utah, had a dominant 2016 campaign, and declared for the draft. Now, he’s a first-round pick, expected to compete right away for a starting job. At 25 years old, he also has the maturity to know what a valuable opportunity he has.

“You only get to do this one time and you want to make the best out of it,” Bolles said. “The NFL stands for ‘Not For Long,’ so you want to do everything possible to take care of your family and play for a really long time. That’s what I plan on doing.”

The last time Denver selected a tackle in the first round (Ryan Clady, 2008, No. 12 overall), that player went on to be a three-time All-Pro (first-team twice). Bolles, however, isn’t letting the pressure of being not only a first-round pick, but also being the first offensive lineman selected in the 2017 Draft influence his attitude or his approach.

“I’ve just got to be myself. I can’t get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. I’ve just got to be consistent. At the end of the day, it’s football. It’s a job. It’s the greatest job I could ever ask for,” Bolles said.

Bolles took the NFL Draft stage Thursday night with his four-month-old son, Kingston, in his arms. It was one of the draft’s most memorable moments, as Bolles smiled away after being selected 20th overall by the Broncos.

“I realized what a family is, what love is and how a structured family is,” Bolles said with the Freemans by his side on Friday. “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.”

With the worst behind him, Bolles’ talent will be on full display next season, but any challenges he faces on the field can’t be tougher than those he faced growing up. And he’s confident the Freemans will be right there at his side if and when any new challenges arise.

“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.”

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