Mark Story: LexCath star Bolin finds it's not easy being a future Card in a Wildcats world

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistFebruary 2, 2013 

Kyle Bolin was a high school junior making his first big life decision: Picking where to go to college.

It was the night of Sept. 22, 2011, a Thursday, and the star quarterback at Lexington Catholic High School was ready to shut down what had become a hectic college football recruiting process. After weighing scholarship offers from Illinois, Louisville, Cincinnati, Kentucky and Purdue, Bolin picked up his cellphone and called the college head coach for whom he had decided to play.

Charlie Strong seemed surprised.

"I think he was a little surprised that I had committed so early," Bolin said of the Louisville head man's reaction. "He just said 'Congrats, we want you so bad, thanks for coming on board.'"

On Wednesday, college football's national signing day, Bolin — a 4-star prospect ranked the No. 3 high school player in Kentucky by scouting service 24/7 — will at last get to make good on his pledge to join Louisville.

If you wonder what it's been like for the most prominent high school football player in the hometown of the University of Kentucky to spend almost two full seasons as a U of L recruit — and I did — let's just say it's been interesting.

Bolin smiles about the adult fan at a Lexington Catholic-Lafayette game screaming at him "You suck! Louisville sucks! You are a bust!"

"That was right before I called a play. It was kind of sad I heard that, says I wasn't really focused like I should have been on the game," Bolin said. "But we scored on that drive. And I made sure I threw the 'L' (a hand gesture that involves forming the L in Louisville) up."

The day of this season's Louisville-Kentucky men's basketball matchup, Bolin put on a U of L shirt and took his younger brother, Clay, to a Lexington eatery to watch the game. After Rick Pitino's Cardinals won, a grown man who had two children with him told Kyle he "was a UK reject going to Louisville."

Then he challenged Bolin to a fight.

"My brother kept his head," Clay Bolin said. "The grown-up, he really seemed like he wanted to fight."

Perhaps most fascinating of all have been the things some people have felt free to direct at Kyle on Twitter.

One wished the quarterback a broken leg. Another hoped he develops Lou Gehrig's Disease.

"He showed me those things and I was like 'Why? Why would anyone say such things to a kid?" Monica Bolin, Kyle's mother, said. "It really does make you wonder."

Picking U of L

A 6-foot-3, 195-pound pro-style quarterback, Bolin blew up into a major college prospect during his sophomore season playing for Bill Letton at Catholic.

"I got my first offer Feb. 25, a couple of days after my birthday, my sophomore year. From Illinois," Bolin recalled. About a month later, Louisville made a scholarship offer, soon followed by Cincinnati.

Unlike many who grow up in Kentucky, Bolin's dream school was not UK. His mom and her family are from Nashville. A next-door neighbor when Kyle was young was a big Tennessee Volunteers football fan. So growing up, Kyle always envisioned himself throwing touchdown passes in Neyland Stadium.

Yet at the time Bolin chose to make his college selection, UT was recruiting him but had not yet come through with a scholarship offer.

By then, Bolin had come up with a series of categories to rank the schools wooing him. One column was close to home so his family could share in his success; another was best relationship with the coaches; a third was the school where it felt like they wanted him rather than him wanting the school.

"Once I realized I had Louisville at the top of pretty much all (the categories), I just figured why not commit," Bolin said.

All was good in Bolin's world until last fall, when his senior season at Catholic ended prematurely because of a torn ACL. It's not uncommon in big-time college football recruiting for a player who suffers a major injury to have their scholarship offer withdrawn.

"It crosses your mind, it really does," Bolin said. "But, honestly, I had enough respect for the (Louisville) program that I didn't think that would happen. I remember telling Coach Strong that it happened. The first words out of his mouth were 'Everything is going to be OK.'"

Twitter wars

Once UK changed football coaches after going 2-10 last season, the new Wildcats staff of Mark Stoops offered Bolin a scholarship.

"I told them if I hadn't been committed, that would be one thing," Bolin said. "But by that time, I was a Louisville Cardinal. I told them I wanted to be up front, not waste their time. I think we ended it on good terms."

When Bolin tweeted about the new UK offer and his not wanting to create a spectacle by considering it since his mind was already made up, he said many Kentucky fans responded with expressions of support. "They said I seemed like a respectful young man and wished me well," he said.

Other people on Twitter have not been as accepting of Bolin's right to go to college wherever he wants.

Someone tweeted "I hope you get Lou Gehrig's disease so me and my buddies can come feed you mushrooms,'" Bolin said. "Another guy said I was weak and soft and he could do more pullups with me on his back than I could do by myself.

"One guy wished that I would break my leg in the first (U of L) game. Another guy said 'You tear ACLs for a living.' It was all just dumb stuff."

A couple of weeks back, in a phone conversation, Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson pointed out to Bolin that current Cardinals star QB Teddy Bridgewater is not on Twitter.

"Coach Watson said you need to let your actions and your playing on the field do your talking for you," Bolin said. "He said if you go on Twitter and say something people can ... use it to make you look bad."

Bolin has now shut down his Twitter account.

It's funny. It could be that those who gave the most prominent high school football player in Lexington grief because he chose to play at Louisville have actually done him a favor.

Kyle Bolin has saved on his phone every one of the negative tweets directed at him for picking U of L.

"I don't dwell on it, but I look at them," he said. "I just know there are people on Twitter who doubt me and want to see me fail. And I'm not going to let that happen."

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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