SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan - The running of Yokosuka Seahawks tailback Chris Bolden left defenders looking to their rear, wondering whoexactly had just passed them during the inaugural Sasebo Bowl.
Off the field, the former Hephzibah High School defensive back and current Naval officer is getting even more looks - from NCAA coaches.
Five Division I programs - Notre Dame, Alabama, Iowa State, Fresno State and South Florida - have requested film highlights of the 6-foot, 205-pound tailback, according to Tim Buck, commissioner of the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League.
In the Sasebo Bowl, he slashed and dashed his way for 175 yards in Nimitz Park against the Kyushu All-Stars in a 30-13 victory. The Kyushu team was comprised of top Japanese players from two universities. He carried the ball 21 times for an average of 8.3 yards, and snagged an interception in the game.
Surprisingly, Petty Officer 2nd Class Bolden, 22, an information systems technician with Carrier Group Five at Yokosuka Naval Base, played just one year of prep football for the Rebels, and then strictly as a defensive back.
"Last year I made the league all-star team as a defensive back," Bolden said. "We had quite a few people leave before this season, and I asked coach if I could play tailback. He hesitated at first because I was needed on defense, but then he decided to let me run the ball."
Bolden played tailback in five games, carrying 85 times for 835 yards - including 25 carries of 20 or more yards.
"So far we've sent out 24 letters to colleges about Chris, and one went to Kent Baer, Notre Dame defensive coordinator and a former coach of the Yokosuka team," Buck explained. "He's familiar with the quality of play in the military football league, and wants to see what Chris can do."
What else can Bolden do? For starters, he runs a 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, bench presses 300 pounds, squats 500 and has a 37-inch vertical leap.
Young players moving on to college, semi-pro and pro football from military teams is not unheard of. Particularly during the Vietnam era, colleges scouted the military leagues regularly, Buck said. However, in recent years, it has become somewhat unusual.
"Just a few years ago, running back Mike Anderson of the Denver Broncos played on a military team in Okinawa, and then went on to play in college at Utah State and then the NFL," Bolden said about his chances of playing inthe NCAA.
"I think I have a realistic chance, and it has always been a dream of mine," he added. "If I got to play in college, then I'd ride it out as far as I could, and if that means the NFL, I'd be living my dream."
Bolden, the son of Christopher and Gloria Bolden of Augusta, completed high school with a grade point average of 3.89, and was accepted to Marshall University. Instead, he joined the Navy.
If a scholarship becomes a reality, "I would most likely keep studying in the field I'm in now, and work for a degree in computer science or engineering," he noted.
Bolden is scheduled to leave the Navy in September, but with the leave time he's accumulated, he could leave as soon as July, Buck said. "That's cutting it close, but it's a workable time frame.
"He's a really good kid," Buck said. "I hope he gets in somewhere."