Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
OGDEN — It was as if Bo Bolen had never been gone at all.
Sure, he spent two years serving an LDS Church mission in the Philippines, so last Saturday's season-opener was his first real football game since 2010 for the Weber State athlete, who earned second team All-American honors as a freshman in 2009 and was named to the All-Big Sky Conference second team in 2009 and 2010.
But it would appear the junior running back and kickoff return specialist never missed a beat as he rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns and returned a first-quarter kickoff 100 yards for another TD in the Wildcats' 50-40 victory over Stephen F. Austin.
Never mind that the 5-foot-9, 200-pound performer told reporters after Saturday's win that "I'm not as good as I was back in the day. I'm a little slower and not as strong."
Actions, of course, speak much louder than words. And Bolen's outstanding performance spoke (or perhaps shouted) that the young man from Aurora, Colo., is definitely back in the business of frustrating opposing defenders and running over would-be tacklers.
Yes, indeed, this Bo knows football, too.
"Football doesn't change — it's still the same defenses, the same coverages, the same concepts on offense," he said. "Football doesn't change, but I feel like I understand it a little more.
"I'm not as in shape as I was — I'm really not," he laughed, "but I'm trying my hardest and I'll be back there by the end of this season."
The Wildcats' second-year head coach, Jody Sears, certainly isn't complaining.
"He's probably his hardest critic," Sears said of Bolen, who's one of the ’Cat co-captains and will help lead them into Saturday's in-state matchup with the University of Utah. "He works so hard and to put himself through camp and not miss a day after being gone for two years, he just did a heckuva job through the spring and the summertime.
"He's not in as good a shape as he'd hoped that he could be, but shoot, he's gonna play himself into really good shape.
"I think he's faster now," Sears said, "but if he wants to get faster, that's awesome because I actually think he's faster now — but don't tell him that. Any time you can go 100 yards virtually untouched, I mean, that's pretty darned good."
The impressive 100-yard play was the first such kick return TD in Bolen's collegiate career.
"I did pretty well in kickoff returns before I left for my mission, but I had never returned one to the house," he said. " I was just thinking, 'Oh, please don't let the kicker catch me.’ ”
Well, that obviously didn't happen, and Bolen is glad to be back playing football again after spending two years of his life serving the Lord.
But he didn't really miss the game all that much while he was gone, because he was committed to being the best missionary he could be and was completely focused on the work at hand.
"The good thing is in the Philippines there's no real seasons — there's the hot season and the hotter season — so I didn't ever really feel the football vibe because it never really got cold," he said. "I was pretty focused on my mission, and I think it was a little easier because I was so focused. I wasn't really thinking about football that much.
"My mom and dad would send me emails telling me what's happening at Weber State and in college football, and I would miss it a lot at times. But other than that, it wasn't bad. I didn't miss it that bad.
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