There is no place like home.
For former Golden Eagle wide receiver Kelvin Bolden, that statement seems to continue to ring true at key moments in his life. No matter where life and football took him, he always found his way back to his roots and you won't find a player more thankful for the place he calls home.
Bolden played for Southern Miss in 2010 and the special season in 2011. Though he only was able to play two seasons for the Eagles after transferring from Junior College, he certainly left his imprint on the school through the way he played the game and in how much he appreciated the opportunity he had.
It was as if all his playing career before that led up to those two years, and he made the most of every moment. His career was more than numbers, though they were very impressive (104 receptions for 1,393 yards in his career including 13 TD's). He was a leader, both on and off the field, for a Southern Miss team that brought home a championship back to Hattiesburg.
Before he talked about that special season, he talked about where his football talent started to really be seen.
"I played at Ocean Springs for Coach Jones and Mangum," Bolden told GoldenEaglePride.com in our weekly Throwback Thursday feature.
"I graduated from Ocean Springs in 2007 where I played WR. I went up to Mississippi Valley out of high school and got up there and didn't really like it. It wasn't a good fit for me, plus I had a little boy on the way who is 8 now (Cameron). I came back home and signed with Mississippi Gulf Coast and play two years there and was highly recruited. I had the choice between Mississippi State and Southern Miss, and of course I chose Southern Miss.
"Coming out of Ocean Springs I really didn't have a favorite team. I kept up with LSU and Southern Miss. When I was in Junior College Deandre Brown signed with them so it really started to turn my attention more and more toward the Golden Eagles."
After his one season with Mississippi Valley State, he came back home to play for two at Mississippi Gulf Coast, and by all indications it appeared he was heading to Mississippi State. He was highly recruited out of MGCCC after hauling in 53 catches for 1,337 yards. The Bulldogs even landed a commitment from the talented wide-out. Coach Fedora and his staff never gave up recruiting him, though, and Bolden made the flip back to his roots and Southern Miss.
"I had my best friend CJ Bailey who was on the team at the time being and I've always been to Southern Miss games a lot," Bolden said.
"The offense they ran was a wide open passing offense, and being a wide receiver I wanted the ball. They had a lot going for them and also it was easy for my family and friends to make the trip up and see me play. That all put Southern Miss over the top for me."
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In Bolden's two years, what he was able to accomplish on the field was only half of the story. The relationships he build and his memories of Southern Miss will remain with him for a lifetime.
"My junior year I had Casey Dunn as my receivers coach and he played a big part in my junior year and helping me mature as a person and on the field," Bolden explains.
"He made a huge impact on the man I am now. Coach Fedora was a player's coach and brought a lot of energy to this program. Coach Anderson who is doing a great job at Arkansas State was really fun to play for. Walt Bell, who is now at Maryland, was a great coach too and they all had a huge impact on me. They were really fun to play for and we had some great seasons with them.
"What they brought to the table as a player's coach was how to have a successful room by being a great balance of fun and also teaching. They just had a great relationship with us and not just on the field. They pointed us toward success after school and showed us there was more to it all than football. I came in immature and on my own and Coach Dunn played a big part in my life really by helping me mature.
"I had nothing but great guys and teammates around me that had one goal in mind of going out on top. When you have that goal in mind, that's when everything comes together and you can have that special season. Our great relationships made those times special. It made the season fun because we had such great people around us. They were all willing to work and do whatever it takes to have that special season, and that's exactly what we did in 2011."
Interestingly, Bolden said it was a game of adversity that helped to turn that special season in 2011. On a Thursday night, Southern Miss went up to Birmingham to play an undermanned UAB team, and even got up on the Blazers 14-0. Bolden remembers how the team took that moment for granted, a lesson they used to motivate them the rest of the season.
"When we lost to UAB and lost our chance for a BCS Bowl game, as bad of a loss as that was, we used that as motivation to fuel us the rest of the way," he said.
"We knew adversity was going to come, and that's when we came together and made sure we weren't going to lose another one. We took that game for granted and it cost us big time. In the same token, the way our team responded to that loss was not by burying ourselves but by using it to fuel what we were able to accomplish the rest of the way. We knew we had to finish the season strong, and that game played a huge part.
"Going into Houston and winning on their home turf in front of that crowd when they had so much on the line was really special."
After graduation, Bolden signed a free agent contract with the Washington Redskins before being released. That wasn't the end of the story, however. Bolden landed in the CFL where he was signed by the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
"It was fun, it was a great experience," he remembered back.
"I came out of Southern Miss with a great QB like Austin Davis, then for a little bit I got to play with RG3 and Kirk Cousins. Then, I got to play with Brandon Banks in the CFL who is one of the best QB's in that league and is still killing it now. The entire experience of getting to play professionally was amazing and it shows you how sports can open up a world to you where you can go places and meet people you never thought would be possible."
As his football career was coming to a close, there was only one place for Bolden to go. He knew he needed to return back to his home in south Mississippi.
"I decided that it was time to come home when I finished up playing football," he said.
"I wanted to get back to where it all started and I wanted to start my coaching career in Ocean Springs. I was hopeful for the chance to coach at the college level and an opportunity came up for me to be at Pearl River. From playing in the Junior College League to now coaching there, I can relate well to the players who are trying to make it at the next level. It is a great opportunity to be able to impact and motivate these kids."
One of his favorite parts of coaching?
"I actually love recruiting, it is what I love," he said.
"It is fun trying to sell yourself to a kid and build a relationship with a kid and trying to win them over from another kid. It is like trying to win that girl from another guy, just like a relationship. You have to have a lot of confidence in yourself and in what you bring to the table. To see them go from high school and then to win them over, sign them, and see them go on to be successful is very satisfying."
You'll also find Bolden beating the Southern Miss drum anywhere he can. He's always selling the program that gave him his shot to play football at the highest level. Of course, he's still involved with the Golden Eagles wherever he can be.
"This team hasn't missed a beat," he said of the current Eagles.
"With Nick Mullens and Stag getting that connection going, they can be special. I told Staggers it is all about what you believe. I told him if he will just keep on with his craft and continue to work hard and sharpen up his routes, he can really be special. That's exactly what he has done. Coach Hopson's motto is 'earn everything' and that is exactly what they have done. Now, they can't be satisfied and have to keep putting the pedal to the metal."
This Saturday, Southern Miss will travel to San Antonio for a western division showdown with UTSA. Bolden is confident his former team will get it done.
"I know Southern Miss will win, even though my roommate Deron Wilson is a GA with them," he said.
"You can't ever go against the Eagles so I say they are going to win by two or three TD's.