INDIANAPOLIS – Garett Bolles is a man on a mission.
His perspective-changing days of walking the streets to spread the gospel according to the LDS Church are behind him, a mission that helped him put his days of walking the streets after being kicked out of his house behind him.
But he's still on a mission that continues at the NFL Scouting Combine, making sure for himself that "old Garett" never resurfaces again and making sure that NFL teams considering a big-time investment in him believe that as well.
"They just really want to see what type of man I am, and if I will fall back to my old self. But you know, I know where I'm going," said Bolles, an offensive tackle from the University of Utah whose stock appears to be rising with each interview and drill. "I have a plan, I have a mission. When you become a husband and you become a father, you have to sort of grow up and you have to become the person you want to be. And I plan to do whatever it takes.
"I don't even know who that old Garett is. I know the new Garett. I know exactly what I want to do, and I'm just grateful to be here. It's a great experience, and I'm really looking forward to living my dreams and playing in the National Football League."
With left tackle Michael Oher having now spent five months in the NFL's concussion protocol and right tackle Mike Remmers less than a week from possibly becoming an unrestricted free agent, the Panthers could use a prospect with the potential of Bolles. The Panthers hold the No. 8 pick in the draft, just like they did in 2003 when they selected Jordan Gross, another Utah tackle.
But Bolles has more in common with Oher than Gross off the field in terms of obstacles that must be considered come draft day. Bolles, like Oher, spent some time on the streets, but unlike Oher he spent some time in jail as well. Kicked out of his home, Bolles was taken in by his high school lacrosse coach and began to find some direction thanks to his new family, a two-year stint as a garage door repairmen and a Mormon mission.
He reached a point where he could give football at shot at a Utah junior college, hanging posters of Oher in his room for inspiration. He developed into a highly sought after prospect over two seasons, then he dominated in his one and only season with the Utes.
On the field, that's where the one remaining vestige of "old Garett" comes out.
"I want to put people in the dirt. And that's what I'm here for," Bolles said. "Whoever's in front of me, I want to drive them and put them in the dirt.
"When I come off the field, I love my family. I've just learned how to turn the switch to go back to the new Garett."
Even at the age of 24, Bolles is raw as an offensive linemen, readily admitting he has a lot to learn as a pass blocker. But he's a raw talent, one who continued to command attention when he recorded a sub-5.0 time in the 40-yard dash Friday morning as on-field workouts got underway at the combine.
If the right team is comfortable that the old Bolles is buried in the dirt and falls in love with how the new Bolles can bury opposing defensive linemen, he could end up as a high draft pick with a high ceiling.
"Football is the greatest game that anyone's created on this earth. It's a game where you can literally beat somebody up and get away from it," Bolles said. "It's just a great game, and I'm grateful that I get to play it for a very long time.
"I know I have what it takes to be a franchise tackle in this league."