Humbled Bolden ready to shine

From the first day Omar Bolden stepped on the practice field for the maroon and gold expectations have been sky high for the athletic cornerback. He solidified himself in the minds of Sun Devil nation when he picked off a pass and returned it all the way for a touchdown in his first Pac-10 game against Stanford.

Yet, ever since Bolden's freshman year the ride has been a little bumpy for the Ontario, Calif. native. In 2008, Bolden's sophomore campaign, the team struggled as well as did the emerging cornerback. Last season didn't go a whole lot better. Bolden was injured in practice after the fourth week and was unable to play the rest of the season.

Fortunately for Bolden, he was able to gain one of those years of eligibility back this offseason when appealed to the NCAA for exactly that.

"I was very excited," recalled Bolden. "It's what I really wanted. It would have been unfortunate if I didn't get it but thank god I did."

Through the first four practices of summer ball, Bolden is impressing onlookers and appears to be ready to play the best ball of his career. Despite his awareness of his physical talents, Bolden hasn't forgotten about the two years of struggle and uses that as a point of reference when he looks at his improvement.

"I wasn't fully developed yet but now I feel like I'm fully developed," Bolden said. "At that point in my career I was just here to make plays. My sophomore year I struggled quite a bit. But it's all part of the game. It's all part of learning and growing and we're here now."

When asked if there was a particular area of the game he struggled with, Bolden wasn't specific in singling just one category. "Every aspect of the game," he replied. "It was rough. It was a rough struggle. It kind of gets you down at some points. I'm a confident man. I'm very confident in my skills. I know what I'm capable of doing. And when you're not putting it together right you're kind of beating yourself up at home. But like I said, we're here now."

When watching any practice it's impossible to miss Bolden. Whether he's ball hawking on the field or gabbing on the sideline, it's clear that Bolden is enjoying himself and setting an example for how hard everyone should be playing, as well as enjoying playing the game."

"I'm a senior in school,' Bolden explained, "on the field I'm a junior. I've been here long enough to be a vocal leader and that's what I'm doing. I'm recognizing what's in front of me and I'm taking it on full speed."

Perhaps the highlight of summer practice through the first four sessions has been Bolden's one-on-one battles with senior wide receiver Kerry Taylor. The two have been matched up every day of practice and results have been either long range touchdowns or textbook, physical man coverage.

On Friday, Taylor shook Bolden with multiple body and head fakes before ultimately streaking down the field for a wide-open touchdown. Even though Taylor has been able to get the best of him on occasion, Bolden embraces the challenge.

"I love that," Bolden exclaimed. "I love competing. I love competing with any guy that gives me that type of competition at that type of level with that high of intensity. You have to appreciate great competition when you come across it. Like I said it's just going to make us both better. It's going to make me better and it's going to make him better, at the end of the day."

Anyone paying attention to the Sun Devils the past year or through spring or summer camps knows how well the defense has been playing. While cognizant of their success, Bolden knows the unit must remain hungry to sustain success.

"We just have to stay level headed and keep on the same track were on," Bolden stated. "I feel like we're doing all the right things and we're practicing hard. We have a lot of energy and as long as we keep that we'll be alright."

When asked what other factors have contributed to the defense's success, Bolden immediately brought up the coaches, specifically his position coach Greg Burns.

"I love Coach Burns," Bolden remarked. "He's a true teacher. I've learned a lot from him. He's a great man. I really appreciate him being here and I'm glad that he's my coach."

Through his first 29 games as collegiate athlete, Omar Bolden has proved that he has immense potential. Now with maturity and experience on his side, Bolden may well be ready to become a full-fledged star.


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