Las Vegas native Bubba Bolden is currently residing in Miami, Florida, as he awaits for his name to be called in the 2022 NFL Draft. Bolden, a safety for the Miami Hurricanes, has become comfortable with South Florida – an area that reminds him so much of his hometown.
"I always tell people Miami is like Las Vegas with water," joked Bolden. "I'm a city kid. I grew up in Vegas and I felt this was a comfortable place for me. Obviously it's on the other side of the country but I felt comfortable being in a city, knowing how to move and do other things."
Bolden went to Miami in hopes of reviving his collegiate career, transferring from the University of Southern California before the start of the 2019 season. But before college, he was a four-star prospect from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas without a single loss in his high school career and three straight USA Today national championship wins.
"Gorman specifically exposed me to a lot in football," said Bolden, "and it put me in the best position to succeed. It gave us that exposure."
At USC, his two seasons as a Trojan were marred by injuries and he was in desperate need of a fresh start. Being on the West Coast his whole life, it took a little bit of time to get adjusted to the Southeast. His desire to go to Miami stemmed from wanting to rejoin his best friend and high school teammate Brevin Jordan, who is now a tight end for the Houston Texans.
"It was a stressful transition trying to find out where where I was going to go after SC," said Bolden. "One of my best friends Brevin Jordan, he was up here and he was one of the first people I called. I said, 'I'm trying to come to Miami, can you do something about it?' And he put in a word and I talked to the coaches. I talked to everyone in the athletic facility and everything just clicked. They were there to support me through the whole process.
"They showed real love, and I think that was the biggest thing to me."
Bolden took pride in going to Miami and living up to tradition of the great defensive backs they've produced. The safety said "it was only right" for him to arrive to Coral Gables and put his name next to the likes of Ed Reed and Sean Taylor.
And his stats proved that he did just that in three seasons as a Hurricane.
He earned All-ACC honors and was a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist in 2020 – Raiders starting free safety Tre’von Moehrig took home the prize. Bolden had 127 total tackles, six pass deflections, two interceptions and five forced fumbles as the ultimate defensive back for Miami. Bolden was all over for the Hurricanes defense, playing strong and free safety with some snaps at nickel cornerback sprinkled in. At the next level, he believes being put at one position full-time will help tap into an incredible source of potential he's already displayed.
"The biggest thing I want to prove is that I'm an all around complete player," he said. "I feel like I'm very versatile in what I do. People have gotten to see me do a whole bunch of stuff, but not really taken the time to see me elevate my game in that position. I think that's something I really want, too.
"I got moved around all time, which is what a safety does. But I played free and strong safety, and I think at the next level, I'll only play one position. And I think that's when I'll be able to be an all-around complete player and show everybody I can be consistently good, week in and week out."
The safety has continued to impress throughout the draft process with the NFL Combine and his Pro Day. In Indianapolis, he ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash with 116 broad jump, while in his Pro Day on Wednesday, he participated in all the drills and put up 15 reps on bench press.
The draft already means so much to Bolden, with the adversity he has dealt with to get to this point. The draft being in his hometown of Las Vegas is just icing on the cake.
He still has deep love for a city that he described as "one of the coolest, most diverse places" anyone could ask to grow up in. He firmly interjects that Las Vegas is more than just a vacation destination, but a city with a hardworking, gritty community "that's all about business." Being all about business is something that Bolden anticipates himself to be to the team he is drafted by – no matter what team or in what round it is.
Bolden met with the Raiders at the Combine and has thought about what it would mean to him to potentially play in his hometown.
Allegiant Stadium wrapped up construction shortly before he left the West Coast to Miami. While he's never been inside the stadium, he's come back home on a few occasions to see it – with dreams and aspirations of playing in it for his family and childhood friends.
"I think that would be the coolest thing ever. I would embrace the whole moment out there. Vegas is what made me, so I would be thankful to be back there.
"And I would want to give Vegas a show."