"They did a good job of not really mentioning really anything, which is kind of what I needed," Bolen said. "There were some things I needed to know, like when coach Mac (Ron McBride) was not here any more, that was something I had to know. … I was aware of the coaching changes, but as far as the records and which players were doing well, I had no idea."
Getting himself back in game shape was more work than he thought it would be.
"Since I started playing football in third or fourth grade, I haven't really stopped playing football," he said. "So I haven't had anything longer than like eight months where I haven't played football. And then all of a sudden to take two years off, you're gonna lose a lot.
"I think I was a little naive on how out of shape I would get, because I've never been out of shape before. I thought, 'It'll be easy, give me a month.’ ”
And he admits that, with all the upheaval in WSU's program while he was gone — McBride retired, John L. Smith took over the coaching reins but then abruptly left without ever coaching a game for the ’Cats, and Sears took over as interim coach last season — he seriously considered going to play somewhere else when he got back, for both athletic and academic reasons.
"I was looking around and I was actually really thinking about transferring," Bolen said, who was pleased to learn that, while he was gone, the school had added an electronics engineering program he was interested in pursuing.
"I had some experiences on my mission where I just felt like I should come back, and I wasn't sure why. But I just knew there was a reason I had those feelings. A lot of my family members were saying, 'You should just transfer and go someplace bigger.' And I was just like, 'I just have a feeling that that's where I need to be.'
"So far it's paid off," he said of staying at WSU. "I've met some people and I just like it here. It feels like home. I'm just used to Weber State; I'm a Wildcat, and I can't imagine playing somewhere else."
Coach Sears and his staff are mighty glad he decided to come back and play for the Wildcats as well.
"From a leadership standpoint, from a toughness and a work ethic standpoint, he obviously brings instant credibility because he's had success in the conference," Sears said. "And his production obviously speaks for itself. Just to have him back in the program is really, really good because we've got quite a bit of youth and it's good to have them see a guy who's been through the fire.
"And he's mature and a leader who's not afraid to get up there and tell the guys, 'Hey, we ain't doing this stuff any more. This is the way we're doing things around here, and if you're not gonna do that, then you need to hit the door.' And in so many words, he's said that, so that's awesome. He's not afraid to hold guys accountable, which is what we ask our kids to do is to be accountable to each other.
"We have two principles — honesty and accountability — and it's great when the leadership can come from within," Sears said. "Now you can make some growth; now you become a player-led team instead of a coach-driven team, which is exactly what I'm all about is to make sure this program is led by the players.
"When he got back last December, I had a couple of conversations with him. I probably would've felt the same way — shoot, my coach (McBride) isn't there any more; you guys went 2-9; really, what's going on up there? — and I had to do a little recruiting. But I don't blame him whatsover to maybe question a few things. I think we all would. But at the same time, too, I think he understands now the value that he brings to this program. He's an extremely valuable component to us, and there aren't words to describe how happy I am to have him here."
Bolen — his full name is Bo Taimalelagi-Craig Bolen, and he is the great-great grandson of Taimalelagi Malietoa, a former king of Samoa — likes what he sees in coach Sears and his staff, too.
Originally written by Randy Hollis of Deseret News