Player Profile: Garett Bolles is a testimony to the power of love and being given a chance

Sep 26, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) reacts after the game against the New York Jets at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The bar was set very high for Garett Bolles after an incredible 2020 season.

Initially considered a first-round bust, Bolles surprised everybody by establishing himself as arguably the best left tackle in the NFL. However, getting there was not an easy road for Bolles. He had to first overcome challenging circumstances and battle inner demons in order to realize he could achieve greatness.

His story is a true testimony to the power of love and what people can achieve when they are given a chance.

Going Nowhere 

Bolles was born in Walnut Creek, CA but moved to Lehi, UT as a kid. At Westlake High School, he played on the offensive and defensive line on the football team. He was also on the lacrosse team.

While at Westlake, Bolles was arrested and suspended for three games after he and four of his teammates vandalized the school’s rival Lehi High School’s football field.

Bolles’ youth was filled with drugs, alcohol, violence, and gang life. When he was 19 and two months post-graduation, his dad, Grove, kicked him out of their Utah home.

According to Bolles, all of his stuff was in bags and cardboard boxes, and he had nowhere to go.

Greg Freeman was driving along when he recognized a teenager on the side of the road that he had known for years. He was his former lacrosse coach, and his wife Emily had previously tutored him.

Freeman called his wife and explained Bolles’ situation, and asked her what they should do. After some intense praying, they decided to take him in.

According to the couple, if Bolles was going to live with them, he would have to abide by three rules: 1) Pay his tithe (Ten percent of any income he brought in would go to their church), 2) Attend church regularly, and 3) Get rid of his old friends. They also required he turn his phone in at night.

More than boundaries, Emily said what he needed most was love. As an adopted member of their family, Bolles experienced unconditional love for the first time in his life. He once asked her, “How long are you going to love me?” to which she responded, “I am going to love you regardless. I’m going to be your mom for life.”

Bolles embarked on an LDS Church mission in Colorado Springs instead of going straight to college.

When he returned, he enrolled at Snow College, which was a junior college nearby.

Although he had played football in high school, he never received any offers to play at the collegiate level.

While at Snow, Bolles thrived and transferred to the University of Utah as the No. 1 overall junior college prospect in 2016.

At Utah, Bolles crushed all expectations. In his only season with the Utes, he was named to the All-Pac-12 Conference first-team. He started all 13 games played at left tackle. Bolles played on an offensive line that allowed just 2.1 sacks per game. After the season, Bolles decided to forgo his senior year and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.

Bust to Baller

In the first round, Bolles was drafted by the Denver Broncos as the 20th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Both his biological father and his adopted family were in attendance, where he famously carried his infant son on stage after his name was called.

On May 11, 2017, Bolles signed a four-year, $11.01 million contract with $8.59 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $6.16 million.

Bolles played as the Broncos’ starting left tackle his entire rookie season. He finished his first season with eight sacks and 51 pressures and committed 15 penalties. Many were labeling him as a bust.

He had an improved sophomore season committing 13 penalties and allowing 29 pressures but only giving up two sacks.

Going into his third season in 2019, the Broncos hired Mike Munchak as their offensive line coach. Munchak, who had a history of helping linemen improve their play, was brought on in hopes that he could fix Bolles’ mistakes. Unfortunately, in that season, Bolles allowed four sacks, 31 pressures, and 17 penalties, which was the second-most in the NFL.

On May 1, 2020, the Broncos declined the fifth-year option on Bolles’ contract, making him a free agent in 2021. It was assumed this would be his last season with the team.

However, in 2020, Bolles had a breakout season. His penalty numbers dropped all the way from 17 to only 7. He only gave up 13 pressures this season and allowed zero sacks. Pro Football Focus gave him an elite 90.3 grade, and he was named as the second-team All-Pro left tackle.

Midway through the season, he was rewarded for his play and signed a four-year, $68 million contract extension with the Broncos.

Since signing the extension, Bolles has become one of the team’s most vocal members and leaders on and off the field. As the Broncos continue to struggle, he’s somebody that his teammates will continue to look to for guidance and a push in the right direction.

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