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After three years in a Navy uniform and playing football for the Yokosuka Seahawks interservice squad, Chris Bolden will throw on some new threads this fall — those of the Concord ( College Mountain Lions.

Bolden, 22, a petty officer second class assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, last month signed a letter of intent to play for the NCAA Division II school.

“This was one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me,” said Bolden, an information systems technician who played safety and running back for the Seahawks the past three seasons.

Officials hope his scholarship will open the pipeline for U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League players to move on to college.

“He has the opportunity to be a pioneer for the league. We wish him the best, not just on the football field but academics as well. He could affect the future of so many folks,” said USFJ-AFL Commissioner Joseph Howell, who just recently took over the job from Tim Buck.

It was Buck who helped get the ball rolling for Bolden in his quest for a college scholarship.

After being selected league offensive player of the year and leading Yokosuka to the league title, Bolden was approached by Buck in early January about applying for college scholarships.

After Buck fashioned a recruiting letter and contacted roughly 25 Division I programs, including Notre Dame, Alabama, South Florida, Iowa State and Fresno State, Bolden picked up the process from there. He spent most of his free time at sea aboard the Kitty Hawk perusing college football Web sites and sending his resume and introductory e-mails to various coaches.

On Feb. 9, he came across Concord, a college of about 3,000 students in Athens, W.Va.

“I liked what I saw after looking through their football Web site and sent them an e-mail,” Bolden said.

Five days later, offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Charles Stansbury responded, asking Bolden for a game film.

“The hardest part of this was waiting for my film to be delivered,” Bolden said.

By mid-March, Concord coach Greg Quick got involved, Bolden said, and floated him an offer of “football money.” On March 24, Bolden received a letter of intent and aid agreement from Concord, which he signed, scanned and returned from the ship three days later.

Quick said he was impressed with Bolden’s “passion and enthusiasm . . . not only for continuing to play ball, but getting a quality education.

“He was tenacious in his communication with us. Once we got a videotape, that spoke for itself. We think we’re getting a good one. We think not only will he give us athleticism, but leadership.”

Bolden, the son of Christopher and Gloria Bolden of Augusta, Ga., graduated from Hephzibah High School with a 3.89 grade-point average and was accepted to Marshall University. He joined the Navy instead, in September 1999, arriving in Japan three years ago.

Bolden will separate from the Navy sometime this spring or summer, though a concrete date has not been determined. The Kitty Hawk is currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.
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