Lehi • He lifts his mammoth right arm — the one he springs forward to keep the game’s top pass-rushers from invading his personal space on every snap — and he points.
As dozens of young players warm up, all with the No. 72 on their back and all with “Bolles” across their shoulders, Garett Bolles motions toward the new school on the other side of the parking lot and keeps moving his hand to emphasize what is new and what used to be.
None of this existed when Bolles was a kid. No buildings or parking lots or baseball diamonds or football stadium. No Skyridge High School, where he is on a Saturday morning.
“It was just a field that I rode my four-wheeler through,” he said.
Part of the fun of becoming an established NFL name, even a celebrity, is getting to come back home and find it different, but also the same. It’s here in Lehi where Bolles is most comfortable away from the line of scrimmage. Before hosting his first youth camp in the area for kids age 5 to 14, Bolles offers a prayer from a microphone. Former Utes Isaac Asiata, Tim Patrick, JJ Dielman and Zane Beadles are in attendance to help kickstart a free camp Bolles hopes will balloon each summer.
After the kids go through a couple of stretching routines, Bolles asks a youngster if he is in need of water on a hot summer morning. Across the front of his personalized cap is his personal motto: “Live your dream.”
It isn’t difficult to decipher that Bolles, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound former Juco All-American left tackle turned first-round pick, absolutely is. At 26, the former Utah offensive tackle started all 16 regular-season games as a rookie left tackle for the Denver Broncos last season, which still leaves him shaking his head.
“In the NFL,” he said, “that is not an easy task.”
Yet Bolles muscled through it, as he’s known to do with pretty much everything he does. He’s already an anchor on the Broncos’ offensive line and, in the AFC West, an anchor who is absolutely necessary to keep Denver’s quarterback on two feet instead of his back.
It helps, too, that Denver has the best pass-rusher in the league in defensive end Von Miller to help school the former Ute. Bolles said 1-on-1 battles with Miller during and after practice helped him learn how different the NFL is. It was a much-needed tutorial for what would lie ahead with sack specialists such as Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders and Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers, guys he would see twice a season in the AFC West. He expects a night-and-day difference from his rookie year to Year 2, as he’s much more calm and relaxed now that he knows what he’s into.
“Trust the within,” Bolles said ahead of his second year in the NFL. “It’s cool to see how far I’ve come.”
Bolles’ story, no matter how many times rehashed locally or nationwide, is something to behold. When he was growing up in Lehi, Bolles was suspended or booted from five schools, and as he got older his behavioral issues mounted, falling into run-ins with the law and even jail time. In 2011, his father kicked him out of the house, which wound up kickstarting a personal journey of discovery that has taken him all the way to the highest rung of his sport.
When Bolles introduced himself at the mic, he said he was an at-odds kid growing up with a learning disability. One in five kids, he continued, still deal with it on a daily basis. So as he looks out on the mass of players warming up, he shrugs, because he knows beneath the surface there’s always something more going on, even behind the smiles.
“Lots of kids are out here struggling,” Bolles said.
So while his left-tackle size or his low-pitched voice might be intimidating, he bends down to break any potential fears with a high-five or even lower further for a hug. Football is a game, he said, but returning home to give back is “what we need.” It’s his first NFL offseason, but it’s already a priority to spend at least a month back home in Utah and to spend as much time as possible in Lehi, where his family still resides.
“This is where I wanted to do it,” he said. “It’s not too far for anyone to come out.”
When the warm-ups were nearly complete, Bolles hustled over to the orange water coolers to grab the youngster a drink of water before the first of the five-hour camp got underway: with the blow of a whistle and a hometown kid ready to help out.