STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 15: Ralph Bolden #23 of the Purdue Boilermakers carries the ball against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the game on October 15, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions defeated the Boilermakers 23-18. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
We are quickly closing in on opening day for Purdue football, and each day I'm getting more and more excited. I think one of my favorite things in the world is waking up at five in the morning, grabbing our lawn chairs, grill, cooler, and corn hole set then heading over to the intramural fields for the glorious American past time of tailgating. Just writing that paragraph gets me excited for football.
Writing this paragraph, however, will be slightly depressing for a few reasons. Today's featured player had, well, still has I guess, all the potential to be an elite running back in the Big Ten. But due to two big injuries (if you guessed ACL tears, you're right!) and getting arrested outside of Where Else? Bar (seriously, everything bad that happens to Purdue athletes has happened to this poor guy), it's hard telling what the future holds for running back Ralph Bolden.
Ralph Bolden - Sr.
Hometown: Folkston, GA (Charlton Co. HS)
5' 9" 200 pounds
2012 Projection: potential medical redshirt candidate/reserve at running back
Its hard to tell what this season will bring for Ralph Bolden. When he's healthy, Bolden can torch defenses and have enormous games. His sophomore season he ran for a total of 935 yards and scored 11 touchdowns with averages of 77.9 rushing yards per game and a 4.7 yards per carry average. Bolden also blew Oregon's defense out of the water that fall when he rushed for 129 yards and caught 3 touchdown passes. Going into the spring of 2010, everyone was excited for Bolden to have another huge year. Unfortunately, Bolden tore his ACL and had to miss the whole season.
Bolden came back this past season and again put up solid numbers; showing that injury had not ruined his career. He led the Boilers in rushing with 674 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns. One of his best games came against Middle Tennesee where he rushed for 120 yards on just 17 carries. But in my opinion, his most memorable game came against IU where he rushed for 54 yards and a score while also hauling in four receptions for 64 yards as we won an intense game to get us into a bowl. As great of a victory as it was, it came with the price of Bolden's ACL, as he tore it again which forced him to miss the bowl game.
While rehabbing his knee this spring, the focus of Bolden no longer turned to his ACL tear, but to his arrest at Where Else? in April. Bolden was charged with a public intoxication as he kissed a girl against her will, refused to leave the bar, then fled through the back entrance when police arrived and later stopped once the officers called out to him a few times.
Least to say, Bolden's Purdue career has had a lot of ups and downs. As the 17th leading rusher in school history (1620 yards and 15 touchdowns), it would be a blessing to have Bolden return to split time with Akeem Shavers. Although, it's hard telling if he would truly be 100% when he comes back and we wouldn't get him back for a good portion of the season.
I think Bolden's best bet would be to shut down for the season, heal, and apply for a medical redshirt. Considering his circumstances, missing two full seasons if he does indeed not play this year, I think the NCAA would grant him a 6th year of eligibility and it would be amazing to have a healthy Ralph Bolden for one more year. I love watching Ralph play. He's fast, electrifying, and is a play making threat whenever he touches the ball. I wish him the best and hope that he has a full recovery, and hopefully we'll get to see him in playing shape soon enough.