Commentary

Joe Bolden ready to enjoy UA Game

Originally Published: December 2, 2011
By Jared Shanker | ESPN Recruiting Nation

For a number of recruits playing in the Under Armour All-America Game, it is a great way to cap off their high school career.

Cincinnati Colerain four-star linebacker Joe Bolden doesn't see it that way.

Bolden, who was presented his UA Game jersey on Friday as part of the 80-stop American Family Insurance Presents the Under Armour All-America Game selection tour, views the game as more of an added incentive for all his hard work. But the real end to his high school career came in November when Bolden -- and the teammates who put in that same work all offseason -- lost in the playoffs.

"I believe my senior year ended when I was with the guys I've worked with the past four years and known my whole life, the guys I lined up to next to who know I got their back and who have mine," Bolden said.

"The Under Armour game is definitely a bonus to your senior season ... but I haven't played with and talked with the guys in it. Don't get me wrong, it's a great honor, but finishing with the guys you've worked with is more special. To me, the real ending chapter came in our loss to St. Xavier."

The week of the Under Armour practices and game begins a hectic week for Bolden, the sixth-best inside linebacker in the country. After arriving in Florida just before New Year's Day, Bolden will practice leading up to the Jan. 5 game before leaving for Ann Arbor the following day to begin his career at Michigan.

Bolden was an early commitment to Michigan, which gave him a chance to mull his options about enrolling early. Bolden committed in late April, and he remembers not being able to sleep on the car ride back to Cincinnati as he already began planning his future, which for the first time wouldn't include baseball.

"Me and my parents got to talking and looked to the future and where my bread and butter is," Bolden said. "I wanted to play my senior year of baseball, especially since we got our new coach who's a football coach as well. But I weighed the options and getting up there and enrolling early and knowing the system outweighed the other."

When Bolden committed to Michigan, he was supposed to be joining a reclamation project when he arrived on campus in January. He was to be part of the rocky transition back to Michigan principles under coach Brady Hoke as the program rid itself of Rich Rodriguez and his spread option and soft defense.

Instead, he'll become part of a squad that finished the regular season 10-2 and could becoming off a BCS bowl win.

"Colerain High School is a big thing here in Cincinnati and Ohio, but when you get the opportunity to go to such a prestigious school like Michigan and play for Coach Hoke and Coach [Mark] Smith, you almost pinch yourself like you're dreaming," Bolden said.

One thing Michigan won't be able to offer Bolden is the opportunity to play under his family. At Colerain, Bolden's uncle Tom Bolden is the coach. His father, Dan, is the school's athletic director. Bolden said it's the family situation at Colerain that he will remember most from his high school days.

He hopes there's another family waiting for him in Ann Arbor, though.

"When I get away from my family and my family hands me over to the Michigan coaches, I'm sure it's going to feel a little bit different coming from a big family," Bolden said. "There's nothing like family, but hopefully there's a second one at Michigan."

Jared Shanker covers Midwest recruiting. He can be reached at jshankerespn@gmail.com.

Jared Shanker

Florida State/ACC reporter