PARKERSBURG - After a stellar high school football career at Parkersburg South, Tyler Bolen - the Patriots' starting quarterback for the last three years - is staying in-state for college, deciding to cast his lot with West Virginia Wesleyan to further his football fortunes.
After being sought after by mostly WVIAC schools, Bolen chose the Bobcats following a visit to the Buckhannon-based college, where he met relatively-new (and young, only 30 years old) head coach George Shehl, a Clarksburg native and former WVU football player who took over the Wesleyan grid reins in December 2011 and went 3-8 last fall.
In his first head-coaching job, Shehl - a former graduate assistant at WVU as well - has implemented an offense similar to what the Mountaineers employ, which made Bolen happy. "Coach (Shehl) is a really nice guy, and I really felt at home up there and with the offense they run, which I like," said Bolen. "I think it's important when you pick a college that it just feels right - and Wesleyan felt right for me."
Bolen said the short distance from Parkersburg "wasn't really a big factor" in his selection of Wesleyan "But it's nice to be able to come home and see your family. And it's far enough away, but you can always come home whenever you want to still."
Bolen's senior-season stats were: 99 of 196 passing for 1,507 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and five TDs rushing for the All-OVAC first-team quarterback.
At Wesleyan, with the departure of starting senior signal-caller Nate Montana - yea, that's right, he's Joe Montana's son - the quarterback situation facing Bolen is: one returning QB, "a junior who played some last year," noted Bolen, "and then I'm one of three new freshmen coming in."
Of course, for the competitive Bolen, his goal is "to be the starter. We're going to compete for the job, but I want to start and that's what I'm working toward now."
Shehl, who also serves as the Bobcats' quarterbacks coach, has recommended that Bolen work mainly on "a quick release - catching the ball and getting it out fast. There's a lot of reads where sometimes if someone's uncovered, the defenders back off, so you can catch it and get it to them ASAP."
Watching Wesleyan practice when he visited, "there's a lot of good playmakers up there, and a couple really good receivers there too," said Bolen.
In addition, Bolen is "trying to add a few extra pounds" to his 6-2 1/2, 195-pound frame "to get bigger, so I can take those hits better, but hopefully not too many."
Academically in college, Bolen hasn't decided on anything in particular yet, "but I think I'd enjoy coaching down the road," he said. "I'd probably like to do it in college, but I could see myself being a teacher and coach in high school. Eventually though, I'd like to become a grad assistant in football - to get my foot in the door with college coaches - and try to work my way through college that way, maybe majoring in something like physical therapy as a backup plan."
Bolen, also a multi-year starter on the Patriot basketball team, said he "always loved football, because I was around it 24/7 growing up" as his dad, Jon, was the head coach at Belpre, then Warren and for the last six years at Parkersburg South so he could coach Tyler through high school.
Bolen can still be seen three times on the gridiron this summer before he heads to Wesleyan in August to begin pre-season practice.
He will play in the BACF Football Classic at 7 p.m. Friday June 7 at Don Drumm Stadium in Marietta, the West Virginia North-South Football Classic on Saturday, June 15 at Laidley Field in Charleston and the OVAC All-Star game July 28 at Wheeling Island Stadium.