ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Selected as the Broncos' nominee for the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, left tackle Garett Bolles said the honor came as a total surprise. But to his teammates — including a couple of players with backgrounds as Man of the Year nominees — there was no Bronco more deserving than Bolles.
"The award is definitely one of the most prestigious awards in the National Football League — he deserves it," said quarterback Russell Wilson, who won the 2020 Man of the Year award. "… Garett is a tremendous example for our community, for our team, for this city and really for the National Football League. … There are a lot of guys that are very deserving, but I think there's nobody better than him."
Safety Justin Simmons, who has been nominated by the Broncos for the league-wide honor three times, said Wednesday that he also knows Bolles is worthy of this meaningful honor.
"[He's] more than deserving of being a nominee for us," Simmons said. "He does such great things. He embodies everything on and off the field of what a Bronco should look like, and I'm extremely happy for him."
When he's not manning one of the Broncos' most visible positions at left tackle, Bolles has invested his time and efforts to make a difference in the juvenile justice system. He received the Raymond C. Frenchmore Juvenile Law Award for outstanding service from the Arapahoe County Bar Association for his work and has mentored and visited hundreds of youth.
Bolles learned of the nomination alongside his wife and children, and he said his motivation comes from his love for the kids he works with and the ability to share his story with them.
"I was grateful — I was speechless, to be honest with you," Bolles said. "… I don't do this just to [say], 'Look at me,' I really do this because I genuinely care and I love for these kids. These kids have taught me so much about myself. … As long as I can relate to them and show them my love and care, it goes a long way."
Along with his role in Arapahoe County's juvenile probation court mentorship program, Bolles has worked to positively impact his community through his personal foundation, the GB3 Foundation, and he has been a crucial part of the Broncos' team-wide outreach efforts.
"It's a great honor to receive this award [with] this organization," Bolles said. "I'm just beyond grateful and humbled. … My mom always taught me to love God and love people, so I've [taken] that upon myself and just really applied it in this community. I'm just very grateful that I got to reach as many children as I can and use my voice and my platform to be able to help those kids that are in need so close to home."
Bolles said his work in the community has also inspired his play on the field and that inspiring youth in the juvenile justice system has become one of his motivations for playing football.
"I play football for a lot of reasons," Bolles said. "I play because I love it, but I play for all those kids that struggle, all those kids that can't play sports or that are locked up. They gave me that passion and my love to use my voice and use my platform."
One of Bolles' teammates on the offensive line, right tackle Mike McGlinchey, said he's been amazed by both Bolles' care for his community and his generosity.
"Garett has one of the biggest hearts that you'll ever come around," McGlinchey said. "He shows his love for everyone he's around, constantly. I only just got here this year, but he's been here for seven years and he's been a staple in this community here in Denver and on this team. The care that he has for other people and the journey he's been on and the way he can help kids that were like him is certainly why he's in the position to get nominated for that award. … [It's] very, very cool to have one of our offensive linemen nominated for Walter Payton [NFL] Man of the Year."
Bolles is one of 32 nominees for the league-wide award, which will be announced at NFL Honors on Feb. 8, 2024.