Editor’s note: Every day, from now until Penn State football’s Class of 2017 reports to campus June 24, we’ll highlight a different one of the Nittany Lions’ 17 incoming signees. Today is Day 6 of the 17-day series.
As a sophomore, Corey Bolds would arrive to after-school workouts wearing diamond earrings and sporting a big afro.
At the time, some of those close to Bolds said he didn’t quite understand the passion he needed to put into playing football. One of his trainers, former NFL player J’vonne Parker, described the younger Bolds as a “real cool kid” who had yet to mature. Parker soon challenged Bolds to take a businesslike approach and show that desire — and, by last summer, Bolds came to workouts with a different mentality.
The diamond earrings were gone. The afro was gone. Bolds was ready to work.
“In that moment, we knew that we had something special,” said Parker, the co-founder and owner of Pro E.D.G.E. in New Jersey, where Bolds often trained.
The three-star defensive tackle was determined to improve last summer — and Parker watched as the Paramus Catholic prospect started to live up to his potential. His new demeanor helped him evolve into a leader and senior captain, easing the transition of a coaching change last fall by supporting its messages to the team. On the field, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Bolds commanded the attention of opposing teams and helped his team capture the state championship before signing with Penn State, where he’ll continue to work to maximize that potential.
“When you’re a three-year starter and you’ve been as impactful as a player, everybody’s going to make sure they try to get four hands on you and pay a lot of attention to him,” Paramus Catholic coach Dan Sabella said. “He was doubled probably 75 percent of the time or more and was still extremely effective.”
Even early on, back in seventh grade, coaches and trainers could see that Division I potential — even if it wasn’t always evident to others. After all, Bolds was a tall and overweight kid when he first started working with strength and conditioning coach Mike Nunziato, and Nunziato said Bolds hated lifting. “It was pulling teeth,” he said. “I was on him constantly, ‘Hey Corey, you can do this. You can do this.’”
But the quiet kid still had the build, a strong upper body with potential to grow in the knees and ankles. Bolds’ numbers increased across the board as a freshman. As a sophomore, his confidence sky-rocketed with the nation’s No. 1 recruit in Rashan Gary — now at Michigan — by his side.
“The hype was huge for Rashan, and Corey started to realize that he can compete with these guys,” said Nunziato, the founder of Total Nunziato Training in New Jersey.
Nunziato said Bolds benefited from watching Gary’s consistent approach when he lifted. During Bolds’ sophomore year, Nunziato said he shed some body fat and started to move better. He also began to believe in himself after everyone heaped praise upon his ability on the football field.
But Nunziato and Parker both kept pushing Bolds.
Nunziato still remembers running a track workout in May during Bolds’ junior year. It was 80 degrees, and Nunziato wore sunglasses and a whistle as he directed the team through sprints with short-rest intervals at Paramus Catholic. There were Div. I coaches in attendance, and Bolds had already arrived tired after getting help from school prior to the workout. The strength coach and Bolds went back and forth as Nunziato started riding the lineman immediately.
“Instead of shutting down and walking off the field, he pushed himself, and then we spoke after and he was like, ‘I appreciate that,’” Nunziato said.
Parker played for the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys, among other teams, during his pro career and tells the players he trains that they don’t impress him. It’s his way to keep them humble when they arrive to Pro E.D.G.E.’s workout facility known as “the shop.” They aim to fine-tune and tighten the players’ technique at the shop, running through more than 100 repetitions of the “move of the day” as part of muscle-memory training. Parker said the top recruits — ESPN rated Bolds a four-star prospect, while Scout and Rivals rated him three stars — all leave their egos at the door.
Parker makes sure of that.
“I say you don’t impress me because I played in the NFL,” said Parker, who played for Rutgers in college. “I played five years, and that’s not impressive to me. Once your name becomes a household name and bigger than my name, then you impress me. So you haven’t made it, so let’s work as if we haven’t made it each time.”
As a senior, Bolds became one of Paramus Catholic’s leaders in the weight room. He filled the void left by Gary, setting the tone for his younger teammates and making everyone else better. Sabella said he leaned on Bolds’ leadership during his first season at Paramus Catholic. And on the field, Bolds was productive — something the coaches noticed even more when they watched film after games.
They’d notice how active he was, pushing through double teams to record tackles or forcing running backs to cut in the opposite direction. And his coach and trainers all say he can only get better when he arrives at Penn State.
“He has the mindset for greatness,” Parker said. “He wants to always better himself, and he’s never satisfied with average and mediocrity.”
Overview of Corey Bolds
Hometown/high school: Paterson, N.J./Paramus Catholic
Height/weight: 6-foot-3/280 pounds
Position: Defensive lineman
Recruit rankings: 4 stars (ESPN); 3 stars (247, Rivals, Scout)
Other scholarship offers: Boston College, Clemson, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio State, Rutgers, Tennessee, Virginia Tech
James Franklin says: “We have a need at defensive tackle. ... We’re jacked about having that guy. You talk about a big, physical, strong, athletic guy that’s going to have a chance to come in and compete, we’re really excited.”