Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He appears weekly on The Red Zone w/ JB on 92.1 FM Fayetteville, The Morning Rush w/ Tye & Tommy on 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home, 99.5 FM in Fayetteville and The Zone w/ Justin & Wess on 103.7 FM in Little Rock.
The Recruiting Guy:
Plenty of love shown for 5-star safety
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman, 5-star DB KJ Bolden and his mother LaKiesha Wright-Bolden.
To say the University of Arkansas impressed 5-star safety KJ Bolden and his mother LaKiesha Wright-Bolden during Saturday’s visit would be an understatement
“The visit was amazing,” Wright-Bolden said. “It was awesome. They did a wonderful job preparing for us.”
Bolden, 6-1, 185 pounds, of Buford, Ga., has more than 40 scholarship offers from Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama. Ohio State, Clemson, Oregon, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas and others.
A consensus 5-star prospect, ESPN rates Bolden the No. 1 safety and the No. 3 overall prospect in the nation for the 2024 class while being the No. 1 recruit in Georgia.
Razorback fans recognized Bolden while he and other recruits attended the Hogs’ basketball game against Kentucky in Walton Arena.
“That was big,” Wright-Bolden said. “They knew who he was. We walked past and they kept saying, ‘KJ, KJ.’ That meant a lot that somebody knew who he was.”
Defensive coordinator Travis Williams and co-defensive coordinator Marcus Woodson are heading up Bolden’s recruitment.
“What stood out the most to me probably was how real the coaches were and how polite and well mannered the players were when we entered introduced ourselves to them,” Wright-Bolden said. “The coaches kept it real. You can tell they weren’t faking it or putting on because we were there.
“Everybody [was] themselves and that stuck out to me the most. To hear what they could offer my son, as a concerned mother, that’s my only son. He has options to go to any school in America, but there it felt like home to me. It felt like he was already there, enrolled and a part of the family.”
The coaching staff being open about their faith also impressed.
“The coaches are really Godly,” Wright-Bolden said. “I want my son to be somewhere where he feels loved like I love him.”
Williams and Woodson showed the explosive Bolden how he would be utilized on defense while Coach Sam Pittman mentioned offense, too.
“Coach Pittman plans to use him on offense a little bit because he’s a versatile player,” she said.
Bolden agreed with his mother about the coaches and environment around the program.
“The coaches they showed love,” Bolden said. “I just felt like I was home. When I got there the coaches just poured into me. The love I got there, I never got at any other school before.
“I get love from a lot of schools but the love from Arkansas is a little different.”
He expanded on his treatment from the coaches.
“It’s hard to explain but it was definitely different for sure,” Bolden said. “We (he and his mother) all felt the same way because of the way the coaches bonded with me. Every coach on the staff knew my name and was talking to me.”
Wright-Bolden said the coaches would help develop her son beyond the football field.
“They pretty much told me they can make him into a great person, a great player, a great man, a great husband one day, a great father one day and that stood out to me as well to hear them say that, because that’s big,” she said.
Bolden appreciated the people in Fayetteville.
“The fans and the people down there,” he said. “The people down there are so nice. They’re loving and caring and they’re willing to accept you.”
The financial support from local corporations and former Razorback and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gives Bolden’s mother comfort in knowing the program doesn’t lack funding.
“We talked about JB Hunt, Walmart, how much Jerry Jones pours back into the facilities and the program,” Wright-Bolden said. “That’s awesome as well.”
Bolden has a 3.5 grade-point average and is considering sports management as a major. His mother enjoyed touring the Jerry and Gene Jones Academic Center
“I told Coach Woodson football comes second to academics because academics will take him further, if he doesn’t succeed in football, so academics is my main priority,” she said.
Should Bolden decide to be a Razorback, his mother would be on board.
“If he told me today, ‘Momma I’m going to sign,’ I would be OK with him signing,” she said.
He said there was “definitely a chance” he visits Fayetteville again.
“I have a lot of schools set up to visit but come official visit time, me and my parents will sit down and Arkansas will definitely be one of the schools we talk about to see if we’re going to take an official there or not,” said Bolden, whose stepfather also visited with he and his mother.
Bolden admits to being momma’s boy
“Oh yeah, I’m definitely a momma’s boy,” he said. “Me and my mom the relationship goes really deep. I would do anything for her.”
He said it was “great” to see that his mother enjoy the Arkansas visit as much as him.
“She’s happy, I’m always happy,” Bolden said. “That’s how I think about it.”
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