Garett Bolles is no stranger to overcoming long odds.
That’s why Bolles made another comeback this past weekend – when the much-maligned leftist tackle signed a four-year contract extension for $ 68 million – sweeten his story even more for him and Broncos fans who had written him off as a first. round bust. .
“(John Elway and the Broncos) called me and they took a gamble on me when they didn’t have to,” said Bolles. “I’ve had bumps in the road for the past three years, but I know they still love and care for me and now they have blessed me again for another four years. So I’m grateful to them … I’m just extremely emotional about being a Bronco for the next four years. “
Bolles endured his hometown booing multiple times during his first three seasons, but they didn’t slow down his progress or take away his confidence. He owned his below-par game and didn’t blink through the first 10 games of 2020 after the Broncos turned down his off-season option for the fifth year, setting Bolles up for a proof-it year.
“The fans had the right to berate me for not playing well,” said Bolles. “I hurt our team in many ways, and it was up to me to fix those things.”
Halfway through last season, the 28-year-old started to turn the corner. Bolles had 5 disruptions (0 sacks, 3 knockdowns, 2 tensions) and 8 penalties in the last eight games after giving up 15 and 9 in those respective categories in the first eight games. It was an incremental improvement, but clearly not enough sample size to convince Elway to acquire the $ 11,064 million option.
But Bolles continued his upward trend this year with a salary of $ 3.5 million, playing as the highest-rated left tackle in the NFL by Pro Bowl standards, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s a remarkable and rather sudden turnaround for a player whose career seemed to be off track. But then again, perhaps it was not so remarkable given the setback that Bolles had to put aside earlier in life.
First, there was his rocky upbringing, with imprisonment, addiction, and a lot of unrest before he got on the right track thanks to a Utah family who took him in at the age of 19. Then sidetracked into the NFL through a community college and just one year in Utah, where he was drafted # 20 overall by the Broncos in 2017 with many cynical doubters.
Those doubters swelled during Bolles’ first three seasons when the left tackle played all 16 games a year, but struggled with consistency and avoidance of penalties. It seemed that Bolles’ fairytale attack was over. And it seemed that Elway’s post-draft analysis of Bolles – “If Garett turns out to be what we think he is, he’ll solve a big problem for us for a long time, and that’s leftover tackle” – was extremely misplaced. .
But coach Vic Fangio never lost faith in Bolles, who never lost faith in himself. Before his breakout season accelerated under the tutelage of Hall of Fame offensive line coach Mike Munchak, Bolles turned off all the noise from last off season. He took time to reflect on his weaknesses and the misguided details they caused.
“I (reflected) by watching movies, by studying, by taking multiple sets in the kitchen and letting my wife rush and identify the little things (in my technique),” Bolles said. “Those little things turn into big things over the years. If I eliminate the little (mistakes) and keep focusing on the details of the game … those were the things that helped me change my game. “
Now one of the league’s highest-paid tackles, the Broncos have confidence in Bolles – again – that he’s a long-term fix for the position.
“I would probably also think his contract year helped him get motivated,” said Fangio. “We trust him to keep the same mindset.”
That confidence, discussed between Bolles and Fangio in an emotional conversation Saturday before the extension was announced, is not taken lightly by the enduring Bolles. In 727 snaps this year, Bolles has allowed 0.5 sack, 8 quarterback knockdowns, 4.5 “bad” run plays and seven penalties (three enforced), according to Denver Post’s game listings. He hasn’t missed a single moment since week 5 of 2018.
“That moment I had with (Fangio) when we both shed watery eyes and then he said, ‘I knew you could do it,’ that meant a lot to me,” said Bolles. “I also told him, ‘I will not disappoint your coach,’ and he told me he will hold me accountable for that.”