Joe Bolden, an outside linebacker from Cincinnati, Ohio, was a key contributor on Colerain High School's football team last season. He compiled over 80 tackles, two interceptions and three tackles for loss. Bolden led his team to an undefeated regular season.
"We went 11-1 last season but got knocked out of the playoffs earlier that we were anticipating," Bolden said. "We didn't make it to Canton, Ohio—where the state championship is—like we were hoping, so it was a bit of a disappointment."
Bolden was pleased with his play.
"Individually, I felt like I had a good season. There are always things to improve on, but overall I felt it went pretty well."
Bolden has the luxury of being a junior, so he still has a whole season to look forward to next year. And since many starters will be returning, he holds high expectations for both his team and himself.
"Next season, I want to get that state championship in Canton, go 15-0. We return eight of 11 on defense. We lose some linemen, a quarterback and a fullback, who were all important to our success last season. But I still think we have a good chance to make it to Canton next season."
His personal goals are just as lofty.
"To be honest, my personal goal is to be the best linebacker in the state of Ohio. Also, I want to be the guy who leads the number one defense in Ohio."
That determination to be the best player and teammate possible, along with his talent and ability, are attributes many college football programs have noticed. Bolden has received verbal scholarship offers from 18 teams, with Big 10 schools prominent.
"Some of the Big Ten teams I am talking to are Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois. Also, I just sent some of my highlight film to Nebraska. I am basically talking to every Big Ten team right now."
Some of the schools that have offered Bolden so far include Arizona, Boston College, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, Purdue, North Carolina, Northwestern, Stanford, Tennessee, West Virginia, and several others. Cincinnati is a local school that has a lot going for it, but Bolden says that no favorites have been picked yet.
"Cincinnati is just about 20 minutes down the road, so they are probably going after me the hardest right now. Also, I have a teammate whose dad coaches at Cincinnati, so he is constantly asking me, ‘Have you committed yet?' and little things like that.
"But I really don't have any favorites or ‘top' lists at this point. A lot of teams are talking to me, and so everyone is in play at this point."
Illinois coach Jeff Brohm has been recruiting Bolden. He shares a few of this thoughts on Brohm.
"We wouldn't have what I say is a distant relationship, but we aren't super close yet either. I talk to him quite a bit, and he seems like a good coach who knows what he is talking about."
The 6'-2", 225-pounder is a highly sought recruit for good reason. He shows many positives in his game, both as a player and teammate.
"I run from one side of the field to the other really well, and I will lay a good hit on you if I get the chance. I am a leader for my team. My voice is heard whenever I am on the field. I relay the messages from my coaches to the players, and I just stay on my players to make them better."
What about the things that Bolden feels he needs to work on?
"Everything. No one is going to be perfect at anything they do, and I understand that. I just have to be willing to work on everything in order to be the best player possible."
Bolden was also straight up in admitting what exactly he is looking for in both a college and football program.
"Academics are number one. If (a school) doesn't have good academics, you won't be seeing me on their football field. That is the only major thing I look for in college, because it's the most important thing to me.
"In the football program, I look at the history of the program. I see how they have done in the past, what the coaches' pasts look like, what type of defense they run, if I will be able to contribute right away, and if I will be able to have an impact at that program."
Bolden has plenty of time to make a final decision, and he admits that he will not rush himself to make such an important one.
"I could make a decision in five minutes, in 10 days, or on February 2nd next year. I will be as patient as it takes to make the right decision for me, because it will be a choice that stays with me for the rest of my life."
Bolden still has not visited Illinois yet, but he plans to in the near future to see what it has to offer. Other places he plans on visiting soon are Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Northwestern, and possibly Tennessee and Vanderbilt.