Some — most infamously, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon — are getting second chances in this NFL draft.
Garett Bolles is getting a third.
“I’m a changed man,” he said last month at the league’s scouting combine.
The Seahawks need quality offensive tackles like the rest of us need food, water and sleep. And Seattle coach Pete Carroll thrives on collecting players that have overcome difficult life experiences and thus have intrinsic, fundamental motivation to succeed.
Bolles has all that. And more.
He turns 25 next month. That’s as old or older than 46 of the 90 players currently on the Seahawks’ offseason roster.
He’s also 6-foot-5, 297 pounds, with long, 34-inch arms. On running plays, he buries defenders like potatoes. And he has the smoothest, quickest feet of any offensive tackle in this draft.
This is why he’s not in the league already:
A troubled home life growing up in Utah and his mother’s issues with substance abuse preceded him getting kicked out of five schools as a teen. He blew off classes. He got into drugs. When he was a senior in high school he got arrested for vandalizing his rival school’s field. He served time in jail for it.
In 2011, his father kicked him out of the house. Bolles had a bag of clothes and nothing else.
That’s when Greg and Emily Freeman saved his life. They led Bolles to where he is six years later: on the eve from perhaps becoming a first-round draft choice on Thursday.
“Absolutely. When the Freeman family came and picked me off the street, that became my family,” Bolles said.
Greg Freeman had been Bolles’ lacrosse coach in high school. He and his wife lived in the same neighborhood as the player’s family.
Bolles’ new family had rules. Ditch the old friends. Get a job. Go to church, and when there donate to it.
The penalty for breaking those rules: Bolles would be kicked out of home number two.
“I love them dearly. They changed my life forever,” he said of the Freemans. “I’m the man I am today because of them.”
For a couple years, while just about every other of the 253 players that will be drafted this weekend were playing college football, Bolles had a job working on garage doors for Freeman’s company. He then went on a Mormon-church mission in Colorado Springs, Colorado, waking at 6:30 a.m. each day, praying, then knocking on doors and teaching people about the lessons from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Finally grounded, maturing emotionally and spiritually, he eventually decided to try football again.
Snow College, a junior college with an enrollment of 5,100 in Ephraim, central Utah (population: 6,100), gave him his second chance. He dominated there for two years. Then he signed with Utah — and dominated in the Pac-12 last season for the Utes.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham calls Bolles “the whole package,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “He lacks nothing.”
The one knock on Bolles is Seattle’s primary concern: he needs to improve his pass blocking. He admits that.
But his run blocking? Not a concern. For anyone.
“When I’m on the field I want to put people in the dirt,” he said, which is sweet music to Seahawks line coach Tom Cable. “As an offensive lineman, you want to be the nasty (jerk) that you can be. And whoever’s in front of me, I want to drive them and put them in the dirt.”
The fact a college football lineman can dominate in run blocking any more is enough of a reason why multiple league sources have said the Seahawks are quietly, keenly interested in drafting Bolles.
“I think we are seeing more now than ever the accumulation of years of guys being in spread offenses and two-point stances all the time that it does not lend itself to guys coming off the football,” Carroll said. “But there are plenty of programs, maybe not enough, but there are plenty of programs in college football that still run the football with an attitude and an approach much more like what we do.
“And those guys are valuable to us.”
This draft is considered particularly weak in offensive linemen, especially tackles. Four are considered premium, the rest paltry.
“There is a dearth at the position,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said.
So there is an overheated NFL market for ready-to-play offensive tackles. That is why Bolles, Wisconsin’s bulldozing Ryan Ramczyk, Alabama Outland Trophy winner Cam Robinson and impressive, versatile Forrest Lamp of Western Kentucky may all go higher than they would in another draft. Maybe higher than needy Seattle picking at No. 26 overall.
This is no doubt a key, transitional draft for the Seahawks. Their core upon which Carroll and Schneider built a two-time Super Bowl team and NFL title winner is not 25 anymore. It is pushing 30.
The Seahawks need a starting cornerback. Eventual replacements for safeties Kam Chancellor and maybe Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman at the other cornerback. Linebacker depth. Pass rushers. Defensive tackles. And perhaps running back, depending on health.
But no need is more urgent than offensive tackle. Sure, Seattle signed former second-overall pick Luke Joeckel to play left tackle last month — for one year. Having undrafted rookie college basketball player George Fant starting at left tackle in 2016 protecting $88 million franchise quarterback Russell Wilson gave Schneider a self-described, midseason revelation of “Holy cow!”
The GM’s next revelation could be a changed man for whom redemption isn’t a tired concept but a daily motivation.
“I’m a changed man, and I know exactly what I want and where I’m going,” Bolles said. “I just got married a year ago (to Natalie Williams, whom he met at Snow College and married in December 2015). I have a son. So I’ve got to take care of them and show them what I’m going to do.”
He said NFL teams keep asking about his past, which he expects.
But the 24-year-old once kicked out his family home, who used to repair garage doors is now a husband and a father. He has this third, cherished chance, a long-held, jeopardized dream about to come true. So he is far more dedicated to his — and their — future.
“They just really want to see what type of man I am, and if I will fall back to my old self,” he said of NFL teams. “But you know, I know where I’m going. And I have a plan. I have a mission. When you become a husband and you become a father, you have to sort of grow up. You have to become the person you want to be. And I plan to do whatever it takes.
“I don’t even know the old Garett, in case you were wondering. I don’t even know who that old Garett is. I know the new Garett.
“I know exactly what I want to do, and I’m just grateful to be here. … And I’m really looking forward to living my dreams someday and playing in the National Football League.”