March 22, 2011

Joe Bolden getting pulled in different directions

Once a football recruit starts to blow up on a national stage, it's inevitable that everybody around him starts to try influencing the decision. Whether it's a coach who has ties to a certain program, a former teammate who attends the school, a parent who graduated from somewhere or even a stranger trying to help their team land a big star, everybody wants to have their say; and linebacker Joe Bolden, the owner of a double-digit offer list, is certainly experiencing that part of recruiting.

Bolden, a 6-2, 225-pounder from Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain, is a highly-recruited prospect that has several former teammates playing in college or are set to begin their careers at the next level this summer. Teammates, current and former, are trying to get the productive linebacker to tag along to their selected colleges. Cincinnati associate head coach Kerry Coombs was an ultra-successful head coach at Colerain from 1991 until 2006, before taking his post with the Bearcats. There is definitely no shortage of people trying to impact the rising-senior's choice, but he is taking it all in stride and enjoying the process.

"Dillon, coach Coombs' son, is always on me, asking, 'when are you committing [to Cincinnati]? When are you committing?' There's Andrew Smtih, who was our outside linebacker this year and signed with Northwestern, he's always asking me, 'when are you committing [to Northwestern]?' And one of Vanderbilt's recruits messaged me over facebook, telling me I should find out more about Vanderbilt. Everybody is finding ways to contact everybody, so I'd say it's about equal [on where he is hearing he should go from the people around him].

"[Recruiting] is something that I enjoy because I know how blessed I am. If you want to call them problems you can, but I think it's a blessing that I have all of these options to choose from."

Bolden said that NC State began recruiting him last winter, sometime in early-to-mid December when coach Don Horton visited Colerain. Sometime afterwards, Horton called Bolden's uncle, who he coached at Wittenberg (Ohio) University, to talk about the athlete and reveal that the Pack had plans to offer his nephew. Shortly after, the uncle called Bolden to tell him the good news.

"That's pretty much how I found out," he said. "I couldn't tell you what years it was [that he played under Horton] but I know he played for him at Wittenberg.

"Coach Horton seems like a great guy, I haven't gotten to talk to him too much so I don't really know a ton about him, but he seems like a great guy, a great coach. He seems like a wise man. He's a pretty nice guy and knows what he's talking about."

The linebacker and his father are huge football fans and watch as many college games as possible during the fall. Bolden said he can't remember a time where his family did not have the best college football package available, although he does not admit to ever pulling for a certain school.

"I mean [I obviously liked] all of the big schools," he said. "Usually if there was a game on, my dad and I watched it. We've always watched USC, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, we've pretty much watched every college game that you could get on TV.

"It can be any age [playing football] and I'll sit down and watch it: college, professional, high school, little league. I just love the game of football, it's a part of my family - I've got two little brothers that play, my uncle coaches, my dad used to coach and I've got probably six or seven cousins who play football at the youth level, as well. It's a big part of my life."

The Bolden family has also taken tons of trips to college campuses across the country for various reasons. Whether it was to take in a gridiron contest, just visit the school, go to a camp or play in a baseball tournament, Bolden said, "it's hard to name all of the ones I've been to."

Among the campuses with check marks next to the names are Ohio State, Notre Dame, Miami, Texas and Cincinnati, the school Bolden says is in his backyard. A few more colleges should earn check marks in the coming months, including NC State. Although Bolden admits he doesn't know much about the Wolfpack now, he's doing his research before he hopes to take an unofficial visit to campus in the near future.

"I'm probably 90-95 percent sure that I'm going down to North Carolina and NC State over our spring break, which is not this week but the one after," he said. "I'll find out what they're all about then and what they have planned for me if I choose to go there. I also need to find out what they have to offer, athletically, as well as academically.

"I'm going to try to get as much information on NC State as possible. I know NC State and North Carolina are only about a half-hour apart so if I get down to UNC, I'll definitely be at NC State that day or the following one. I can't wait to get to all these colleges to visit, it's really exciting."

Bolden added that he will be at Michigan on Thursday while trips to Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Illinois should be in the future, as well. The standout does not have a timeline for his decision and he is not limiting himself by proximity to home, either.

"I've got no timeline, I'm not putting any pressure on myself to make a choice," he said. "As far as I know, I've got until Feb. 2 of next year to make a choice.

"[Distance] is not a factor at all. What my parents and family have told me is that wherever I end up playing, they are going to be there, cheering me on and backing me up."

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