John Elway continued injecting some venom into his offensive line Thursday night when he selected Utah left tackle Garett Bolles with the 20th pick of the NFL draft.
That’s the lowest the first O-lineman has ever come off the board in the modern draft.
Four days earlier, Elway expressed confidence he could find a starting-caliber left tackle in a class relatively weak on offensive linemen.
The Broncos missed the playoffs last season for the first time in his six-year tenure. So, Elway went about adding some nastiness in the trenches this offseason. He signed free agents Domata Peko and Zach Kerr on defense and Ron Leary and Menelik Watson on offense.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Bolles, a punishing run blocker who entered Snow College in Utah as a D-lineman before switching sides, fits the same nasty profile as the other newcomers.
A troubled teenager, Bolles went the junior college route before going one-and-done at Utah, where he was named first-team All-Pac 12.
The 24-year-old served his Mormon mission in Colorado Springs.
“I love Colorado. I have a heart there because those are the people I taught on my mission,” Bolles said at the combine, where he ran a 4.95 40-yard dash. “If I end up going there, I’d be just fine.”
An emotional Bolles held his newborn son, Kingston, as he walked on stage at draft headquarters in Philadelphia and declared, “Denver, I’m coming back home!”
Elway said the baby moments were a glimpse into Bolles’ maturity and passion.
“I plan to start as soon as possible,” Bolles said. “They wouldn’t have drafted me with such a high pick” otherwise.
Bolles said he not only brings good footwork and a nasty streak to the pros but also a maturity born from his wayward past.
“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,” Bolles said. “And I don’t even know the old Garett, in case you guys were wondering. … I don’t even know who that old Garett is.”
Well, on the field, he still recognizes him.
“When I’m on the field, I want to put people in the dirt,” Bolles said. “And that’s what I’m here for. As an offensive lineman, you want to be the nasty (jerk) that you can be. And whoever’s in front of me, I want to drive them and put them in the dirt. So I’m just going to try to be that every single day.
“And when I come off the field, I love my family. I just learned how to turn the switch to go back to the new Garett.”
Elway said he has no concerns about the old Garett sneaking up on the new Garett.
He called Bolles his primary target heading into the draft and said that’s why he withstood temptations to grab any number of defensive prospects instead as they slid down the board with an early run on quarterbacks.
“I think he brings a great mentality to that offensive line that needed a jolt, too. And so I think he’s a perfect fit for what we’ve done in free agency,” Elway said.
“If Garett turns out to be who we think he is, he solves a big problem for us for a long time.”
Having filled his biggest need, look for Elway to go for playmakers in Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday, particularly targeting a tight end to take pressure off both his line and his star receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
But don’t look for him to address another pressing topic that’s increasingly on a lot of fans’ minds: the continuing delay in signing his own contract extension.
“We’re not going to talk about that now. We’re in the middle of this. We’re trying to get better as a football team,” said Elway, who is in the final year of his deal. “We’ll talk about that later. But we’re going to be fine. Don’t worry about that.”