EPHRIAM, Utah (AP) - It is a beautiful spring morning in the small central Utah town of Ephriam. Home to Snow College where, like clockwork, every year, a familiar sound can be heard at Badger Stadium. It’s football time and like all college teams across the country, this team is out to win.
Leading this pack of Badgers is one very large lineman. He’s number 74, Garett Bolles, 22, a 6 foot 6 inch, 305 pound offensive lineman who packs a heavy punch. He’s so good in fact, that he is one of the most recruited junior college players in the country right now with some 18 offers.
“You don’t find guys that are that big, that are that athletic,” said Badger head football coach Mitt Maughan.
Getting to this point was a difficult and painful road for Bolles. In fact it’s amazing this kid is even playing football at all, and not locked away somewhere.
“I was a troubled teen,” said Bolles.
That is putting it nicely. Bolles was kicked out of or suspended from five schools during his teenage years. He got into drugs and alcohol and committed crime, even spending some time behind bars.
“You name it. I’ve done it.” he said. “I got pretty bad. I affiliated myself with some gangs.”
According to Bolles he was heading, “down the wrong path to prison.”
Life got so bad at home, that after his senior year in high school, Bolles’ own father kicked him out of the house.
“There was constantly trouble and chaos,” said Bolles’ father Grove who said the pressures of his career, a divorce and his family all came together at that same time.
“I finally had enough.one day I just came home and there was a bunch of the characters in the house and I said you know what we are just done. I can’t do this anymore. You are not helping. It’s time to leave.”
“Basically said, ‘You’re done. You’re not really a part of this family right now,” said Garett Bolles.
It was a Friday afternoon. August 26, 2011 when Garrett found himself kicked out of his house and standing on the side of the street with nowhere to go. All he had was a couple of duffle bags with clothes.
That’s when Greg Freeman, a neighbor, happened to be driving by and stopped to check on Garett.
“I knew exactly what happened,” said Freeman with emotion. Freeman said he knew of the trouble within the Bolles home and figured Garett’s dad had had enough.
“I had tears down my face; Sort of angry, sort of lost basically. I said, ‘I’m homeless,” said Garett. Freeman called his wife Emily.
“My first thought was to pray, so I hung up the phone and I just knelt down,” said Emily Freeman. “A really strong confirmation came: bring him home. So I called Greg and said pack up his stuff and bring him home.the God I believe in gives people second chances.”
And that’s exactly what they gave Garett.
“They picked me up and told me I have one shot to live.”
The Freeman’s were no strangers to Garett. They were neighbors and knew of his troubled past. Greg Freeman had coached Garett in Lacrosse.
“He was notorious in the neighborhood,” said Emily. “Police were out here all the time.” But Emily says there was something about Garett that made her believe in the boy.
“From the very first time Garett and I ever talked, I saw inside of him someone who was so good, but was trapped by circumstances that were outside of his control,” said Emily.
And that’s the same reason why Greg Freeman says he stopped his car: Garett’s heart.
“Garett and I have big hearts we are kind of a lot alike. That’s why.”
“I never felt so much joy in my life. I always knew these people were good people in my life but when they told me to come live with them I knew this is my family,” said Garett.
Garett joined the family of six like another son. In fact, he wasted no time calling Emily and Greg mom and dad.
“She’s my mom,” said Garett.
But there were very strict rules and conditions set into place, which included dumping all his friends, checking his phone in at night and having a curfew.
With the help of neighbors the Freemans also set up a tutoring schedule where a variety of mothers would come into the home to help him with his school work.
“It took a year and a half to watch it happen. There would be really good days and there were really bad days,” said Emily.
Garett would later serve an LDS mission to Colorado, which he says was another major turning point in his life.
“It was like I was reborn again because of this family and what they did for me,” he said.
And that is why Garett is such a fan of the movie, “The Blind Side.”
It is a true story of professional NFL football player Michael Oher, who was homeless and taken in by a family and given a second chance.
That is why Garett wears Oher’s number 74.
“Michael Oher is my hero. Ever since I saw how he changed his life; that’s the reason I’ve always looked up to him,” said Garett.
The list of college trying to recruit Garett include Kansas, Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, Arizona State, Oregon, Nebraska, Oklahoma, BYU, and Utah to name a few.
“It’s so remarkable that he’s living this dream,” said Emily.
Garett’s father, Grove Bolles, also couldn’t be more proud. He and his son have since mended their relationship, but his father has no regrets for what he did.
“I did what was necessary it had to be done,” said Grove.
And Garett doesn’t blame him.
“I don’t blame anyone.”
Garett still has to finish out his year at Snow College and says he doesn’t plan to make a decision on a school until early next year before recruitment day in February. Early on he was planning to go to BYU, but with all the choices he now has, he says he wants to keep his options open.
The road is still a difficult one for Garett. Emily says he fights his demons on a daily basis, but the difference now she says is he believes in himself.
“A real champion is someone who can pick himself up every time he falls.”
Information from: KUTV-TV, https://www.kutv.com/
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