It was only five days until the New Jersey state championship, conceivably the biggest game to that point in his life, and Corey Bolds was sitting in a doctor’s office.
After fighting a nasty cold that just wouldn’t go away, Bolds had been diagnosed with pneumonia. The recommendation was that he avoid physical activity for two weeks in order to allow his lungs to clear up. So when Paramus Catholic’s showdown against St. Peter’s Prep rolled around the following Friday evening in December, where was the Paladins’ star defensive lineman? Was he bundled up on the sideline? Did he stay in the locker room?
No, he was in the starting lineup. He returned to practice in time for Thursday’s walk-through, and then in Paramus Catholic’s 33-28 win in the NJSIAA – Non-Public Group 4 title game, Bolds was a force.
But, echoing how his recruitment played out, his performance didn’t come without a cost.
“I’m running around 100 percent to the ball trying to get to it, [but] after the first pair of series I came off to the sideline, I was throwing up,” Bolds said. “They had blankets on me and stuff like that. It definitely wasn’t a good feeling, but I got used to it.”
It was one of many heroic efforts from Bolds, a team captain, throughout his time at Paramus Catholic. With his eight tackles in the championship game, he helped his team finish the season with a 10-2 record as a senior.
Bolds began his career at defensive end, but as he grew older and larger he would slide down to a three-technique defensive tackle spot in certain situations. Now that he’s at Penn State, he’s focusing primarily on the inside position. He weighed 282 pounds as of May and is continuing to bulk up to handle the load at DT for the Nittany Lions.
But the opportunity to pair Bolds with PSU almost never came.
“I finished high school with 21 offers, so basically every offer I got I looked into it because I wasn’t sure,” he said. “I never had my mind set on the process. I wanted to see my options, but no one is going to visit 21 schools, so you have to talk to coaches. You have to get a feel for coaches and build relationships. My advice for all recruits is to commit and jump on board with your school once you feel it, because there were a couple times in my recruitment where I felt [it was evident] where I wanted to be but I didn’t let the trigger go, so it just prolonged the recruiting process and just made it more stressful.
“Other than that, it’s a blessing to go through the recruiting process. Other people are not privileged enough to get offers from Power Five schools, but other than that, the hardest thing is just finally deciding where you want to be. The other thing is, you can’t listen to other people. You have to do what you want.”
At times during Bolds’ recruitment, it appeared as though Alabama was his leader. Then Michigan. Then Clemson. They had all offered at one point or another, but because Bolds was reluctant to verbally commit and seldom made on-campus visits, schools began going with other candidates. By his senior year, his options had dwindled to just a few.
In need of defensive tackles for its Class of 2017, Penn State was one of the schools that continued its pursuit. The coaches had extended an offer in the winter following his junior season, and although their interest wasn’t enthusiastically or promptly reciprocated, they maintained an open line of communication.
Included in the conversations were reminders aimed at keeping Bolds focused on his classwork. As a freshman and sophomore, he had fallen behind with his grades. “I was kind of a knucklehead,” he admitted.
That inattentiveness had forced Bolds to play catch-up throughout the latter portion of his high school career. He began to take his studies more seriously when he realized that they could potentially impact his college recruitment. By the end of his senior year, he had recorded mostly As and Bs and reported to have scored a 1230 on his SATs.
The progress was enough for head coach James Franklin to formally present the opportunity for Bolds to join the Nittany Lions. At 4 a.m. on signing day, Franklin passed along a letter of intent. Two hours later, Bolds faxed it back, signed.
He had almost committed to Penn State following an official visit for the Iowa game in November. “It was just an amazing time,” he said, but his father was unable to make the trip, so they decided to hold off on a decision. He later officially visited Rutgers, one of his only remaining suitors, before finally signing with PSU at the last minute.
Although it was a winding path to his commitment and a welcome relief once it was over – “A weight lifted off my shoulders,” he called it – Bolds is eager to begin the next step in his journey.
“I’m more anxious to make a new name for myself,” he said. “Going through high school, you learn from past mistakes and it’s all about getting better from them and moving on from them. So going into college I’m making a better name for myself and starting out fresh, and hopefully I’ll put myself in position to play on Sundays.”