Being at LSU is more than a dream come true for Rob Bolden.
It’s too surreal for even that. To him, it’s more like being in a movie.
Perhaps the plot sounds familiar: young talented artist gets caught up in disreputable circumstances but winds up with the fresh start and the happy ending.
For now at least Bolden has the fresh start, finally freed from the Penn State program that figuratively held him captive even before the school was punished with unprecedented NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
The sordid tale did give Bolden the chance to hit the reset button on his college career while he still has half of it left to play. Perhaps his career and the program that came crashing down around it plays out as a cautionary tale about choices and their unintended consequences.
“I never dreamed I’d have the chance to come here,” Bolden said Tuesday as he answered his questions as a Tiger at LSU Media Day. “LSU fell right into the script.”
He could have been here all along. LSU recruited Bolden out of Orchard Lake, Mich., but he chose the Nittany Lions over the Tigers. It was a matter of distance and familiarity, but also something more, he said.
“At the time I thought Penn State would be a great place,” he said. “Great coaching, you have Joe Paterno. Who wouldn’t want to play for Joe? They ran an offense that gave me an opportunity to play right away. It all happened.”
In 2010, Bolden became the first true freshman in a century to start at quarterback for Penn State. Then, gradually, it was all pulled away. There were injuries and less and less playing time. By this spring, under new coach Bill O’Brien, Bolden had slipped to third on the depth chart.
He sought a transfer after the 2010 season but was denied by Paterno — if he knew the reason for that decision, Bolden didn’t say. The NCAA sanctions this summer opened a fire escape for Bolden as any player desiring to leave the program could transfer and play right away. Bolden said he immediately thought of LSU, and perhaps of LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe, who recruited Bolden when Kragthorpe was head coach at Louisville.
“I told him it was destiny that we both ended up here instead of at Louisville,” Kragthorpe said.
Kragthorpe said LSU fans will like what they eventually see of Bolden’s ability to pass, his athleticism, and that his crash diet of the Tigers’ playbook will be served by his intelligence and ability to be a quick study.
Bolden, like any competitor, spoke of wanting to eventually challenge Mettenberger as the starter. But his coach knows it will be a long haul.
“He’s swimming upstream in the Mississippi with a lot of logs coming at him right now,” Kragthorpe said.
Perhaps, But Bolden has already navigated through more treacherous waters.