In two seasons at Louisville, Kyle Bolin has appeared in 11 games, thrown for 1,870 yards and 11 touchdowns and made starts against a pair of top 10 teams in Georgia and Clemson. Here’s the rub: Bolin is a redshirt junior who just so happens to play the same position as one of the most dynamic sophomores in the country.
For the vast majority of people in Bolin’s situation, the decision to transfer somewhere else and receive your due playing time would be an easy one. It certainly was for fellow quarterbacks Will Gardner and Tyler Ferguson, who opted to bolt for West Georgia and Western Kentucky, respectively, in the wake of Jackson’s rise to prominence.
Bolin, however, chose to don the red and black for another year. A year where, for the first time since Bobby Petrino’s return to Louisville, the Lexington Catholic product won’t be in a legitimate battle to be named UofL’s starting quarterback for week one.
“There were definitely moments where transferring crossed my mind,” Bolin said at Louisville football’s media day last weekend. “But talking with my parents and sitting back and looking at all the opportunities the University of Louisville has given me and all the opportunities that are yet to come, I just feel like this is the best place for me.”
If recent history is any indication, Bolin’s opportunity to make an impact on the field for the Cardinals isn’t over yet.
Due to injuries and inconsistent performances, Louisville has played three or more quarterbacks in each of the past two seasons. Bolin’s most memorable performance to date came in the 2014 regular season finale when starter Reggie Bonnafon went down with a knee injury in the first half against Kentucky. Bolin, who was given grief by many in his hometown of Lexington after he committed to UofL, then became a Governor’s Cup series legend by throwing for 381 yards and turning a 13-0 deficit into a 44-40 Cardinal victory.
Serving as the primary backup for a running quarterback who seems to embrace contact rather than avoid it, Bolin knows that he’s always one play away from having the fate of Louisville’s 2016 season in his hands.
“I never want to play because of somebody’s injury, but you have to be ready.” Bolin said. “I’d rather be a help to the team than be a cancer. I could go around and pout and say, ‘I was the quarterback last year. Blah, blah, blah.’ But that’s not the type of person I am. I was raised differently. I understand my role. I understand what’s expected of me.”
That attitude and work ethic also benefit Jackson, who goes to practice every day knowing that if he doesn’t live up to the hype that has been building up for his sophomore season, Bobby Petrino has another highly capable option to go with at his position.
“Having Kyle there is a huge blessing for Lamar because he really pushes Lamar every day,” Petrino said. “We never have to worry about Lamar taking a day off or getting lazy because he knows Kyle’s going to be right there every day competing. That helps keep him focused as much as anything else.”
Had Bolin chosen to go the easier route, not only would Jackson not be pushing himself to get better every day in practice, but the Cards would perpetually be one misstep or one awkward tackle away from seeing their season implode. Instead, Bolin’s loyalty to UofL has afforded Petrino the luxury of redshirting highly-touted freshman Jawon Pass and given him the peace of mind that comes with having two quarterbacks who have already proven themselves on the biggest of stages.
“When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to be a University of Louisville Cardinal, and now I want to finish a University of Louisville Cardinal,” Bolin said. “I think that looking for an easy way out or avoiding obstacles in the road is not going to make you a better person. Everything I’ve been through my whole career and everything in my life to this point has made me the man that I am today, and will make me the man that I am in the future.” VT
By MIKE RUTHERFORD, Contributing Writer