TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden could have cashed in on his impressive First-Team All-Pac-10 campaign last year and jumped to the NFL a year early.
Instead, the lockdown defender decided against becoming yet another talented addition to an already stacked defensive back class and return to ASU for his senior year.
But although the decision to delay the eventual millions is a difficult one for any junior with the skill set to play in the National Football League, Bolden is quick to answer if he still contemplates whether or not he should of went pro.
“I’m not really focused on that,” the four-year starter said. “My focus is here on this field.”
Bolden, who was a member of Dennis Erickson’s first recruiting class back in 2007, is instead concentrating on becoming more of a leader in the locker room as the Devils try to compete in the newly formed Pac-12 South.
“I’m one of the only seniors in the defensive backs room,” Bolden said. “I’m just trying to lead by example.”
And “leading by example” is just what Bolden has done throughout his Sun Devil career.
Last year, Bolden, who was granted another year of eligibility after missing most of 2009 with a knee injury, lead the team with three interceptions and also added 52 tackles and seven pass breakups. In addition to his unanimous first-team designation at the cornerback position, he was also voted second-team All-Pac-10 as a return specialist, averaging 29.2 yards per kick return.
As one of the 19 total starters who are returning to the Devils on both offense and defense, Bolden knows this team is poised to compete after their disappointing 6-6 season last year. And it’s that type of continuity and experience that has allowed both sides of the ball to take a big leap forward this spring.
“(When) we going into the meeting room and go over stuff, we’re paying attention but it’s stuff we already know,” Bolden said. “So it’s really just reevaluating where we messed up last year and trying to correct it this year.”
But there is one prevailing reason Bolden decided to don the maroon and gold for one more year: unfinished business. In an interview with the Arizona Republic back in January, Bolden stated “there is more to do. I want to bring the first Pac-12 championship to Arizona State, and I want to play in the Rose Bowl.”
To reach those lofty goals though, Bolden knows the defense must improve as a unit after an up and down 2010 which saw them give up 4+ touchdowns in six games yet hold opposing offenses to 14 points or less in 4.
Looking even further down the road than that, Bolden is also trying to help prepare ASU’s young batch of corners to take the next step so when he eventually goes pro, the secondary will have a smooth transition.
“When I leave, somebody has to step up and fill my shoes,” Bolden said.
With all of Bolden’s vast contributions in his time as a Devil though, ASU may find out in 2012 that those cleats won’t be easy to occupy.