Ten days ago Jeff Bolton was working in a lumberyard at Bozeman, Mt. But this week, he's boning up on the playbook for the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks.
While most local students are putting away the books for the summer, 2002 Wood River High School graduate Bolton is just picking up the books and burying himself in details.
Nothing is guaranteed, but Bolton wants to make a good showing in the Seahawks second pre-season mini-camp of the spring June 5 so he can possibly make the roster of the reigning National Football Conference league champions.
Bolton, a 6-4, 310-pound offensive lineman from Montana State, on Thursday, May 18 signed a two-year contract with the Seahawks. If he makes the team, Bolton understands that the Seahawks will pay him $275,000 for the first year.
That's more than he would make in the lumber yard, even though it's probably just a footnote in the checkbook of Seahawks owner Paul Allen.
Seattle, of course, made it all the way to the Super Bowl in February before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bolton said, "Nothing is guaranteed in pro football. They can cut you whenever they want, so you really have to take it one day at a time. I'm lifting and conditioning and watching film all the time, and trying to learn the playbook."
He's doing all this at a hotel in Bellevue, Wash., where he and the other nine of Seattle's undrafted but signed college football free agents are staying leading up to the team's June 5-7 mini-camp.
But the main thing, Bolton acknowledges, is that he now has a chance to fulfill his dream of playing pro football.
He didn't have it two weeks ago.
Bolton went to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers mini-camp May 5-7 in Florida but never signed with the NFL team. Tampa Bay signed only one of the 50 players at the mini-camp, he said.
He flew back to Bozeman and, faced with "a dead period," in his pursuit of a football job, Bolton picked up a job at the local lumberyard. On Tuesday, May 16 he got a phone call from his agent informing Bolton that the Seahawks wanted to look at him.
Bolton flew to Seattle the next day, Wednesday, and got the required physical and medical tests. The coaches put him through some offensive line drills and conditioning work and generally checked him out to see how he moved.
The next day, Thursday, they pulled the 22-year-old Bolton aside and said they wanted to sign him to a two-year contract. This was approximately three weeks after the Seahawks announced the signing of nine undrafted college free agents including Bolton's Montana State teammate Travis Lulay, the Bobcat quarterback.
So Bolton returned to Bozeman, packed up and drove back to Seattle, where he is in the same group as Lulay. Bolton said, "I'd never been to Seattle. It's awesome."
He said he will work hard, but he's realistic about his chances. The main thing is, as Bolton said, "the more people you get in front of, the better."
Bolton will have the attention of one of the league's best in 58-year-old Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren, who recently signed a two-year extension with the Seahawks.
And of course there's a chance that Bolton will block in front of tailback Shaun Alexander, the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2006 with 1,880 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.
Once he makes it through the final cuts in August, during the pre-season, the Seahawks will start paying him. The Seahawks have four pre-season games—hosting Dallas Aug. 12, going to Indianapolis Aug. 20 and San Diego Aug. 26, then coming home against Oakland at Seattle on Thursday, Aug. 31.
Bolton's former coach, Wood River High School vice principal John Blackman, is already planning to get tickets.
A three-sport athlete at Wood River, Bolton played four years on the offensive line for Montana State and was numerous post-season honors and accolades for his work.