ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On January 7, 2011, Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden happily announced he would return to school for his senior season.
Less than three months later, a knee injury in a spring practice interrupted his plans. He wouldn't see the field for his final year in college.
"It was a tough situation to go through," Bolden said of his torn ACL. "I was very excited to come back (to school). We had very high expectations for our team. For us not only to lose me but a couple other starters, it was pretty devastating to the team. To sit back and watch your senior year, it's pretty painful, especially when you put a lot of time and energy and effort and heart into this game."
But Bolden didn't let it keep him down. He traveled to every game, attended every practice and sat in every meeting during the Sun Devils' 2011 campaign. He was still named a team captain, and earned Hard Hat player recognition for his work in the team's offseason strength and conditioning program.
His time staying involved was a positive the cornerback pulled from his tough situation.
"That was one of the few pluses of sitting out — I was able to grow mentally and develop more as a player as far as sitting back in the meetings and just watching the defense develop in front of my eyes."
Now, after not taking part in a "full-on practice" since 2010, Bolden is participating in this weekend's rookie minicamp as a fourth-round pick of the Broncos.
His enthusiasm for the situation was impossible to mask.
"This is all exciting for me," Bolden smiled. "I really love this game. Just to have the opportunity to be out here and play in the NFL and for the Broncos, it's an amazing opportunity."
A four-year starter at Arizona State, Bolden started 35 games, accumulating 150 tackles, seven interceptions and 21 pass breakups in his college career.
In addition, the cornerback excelled as a kick returner, averaging nearly 31 yards per return and taking two back for touchdowns, including a 97-yarder in 2010.
Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said the team felt Bolden was a "first- or second-round talent that we got in the fourth round."
Now Bolden is ready to prove the team right.
He said he would describe himself as a cornerback who "can do a little bit of everything."
"I take pride in the way I play as far as being aggressive, being able to run with guys downfield and making plays. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to contribute and help this team win."
Joining a secondary with the likes of Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence gives him "a huge opportunity to learn," and he plans to do just that.
As for special teams, if he's pegged as the club's returner, he'll "take it and run full speed with it," he smiled.
All in all, he's just happy to be back on the field, and he can't wait to fit in wherever the coaches want him in 2012.
"Wherever my role is, whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do," Bolden said. "Whether they want me to run down on kickoff, or they want me to run down and cover punts or they want me to return the ball, whether they want me to play nickel — whatever. I'm just excited to have this opportunity to play in the NFL. Coming off a knee injury, missing a whole year, I see myself as very blessed and fortunate. A lot of guys would love to be in my position, so I'm going to take full advantage."