New England Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears enters his 31st season in the NFL and his 25th in Foxborough.
Veteran Brandon Bolden is aware of the longevity.
“Me and Ivan have a special relationship,” Bolden told reporters during his press conference Thursday at Gillette Stadium. “He’s been my running backs coach since my rookie year, so this is my 10th year of getting on his nerves.”
Bolden arrived as an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss in 2012 and returned in 2019 after a regular season spent with the Miami Dolphins. The four-down back finds himself 31 years old now, and the elder statesman in a room of listeners that includes captain James White, Damien Harris, J.J. Taylor and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson.
“Every day, it’s a different type of story,” Bolden said Fears. “Damien, me, James — anybody can do anything that reminds him of the glory days of football back before pretty much all of us were born. He has a bunch of stories about that and all his past experiences. But a lot of them have a little life story in them and sometimes you get a little long-winded, so you might fall asleep while he’s talking. But great guy, full of knowledge. Just the places he’s been, the people that he knows and information that he can pass out is very beneficial for all of us.”
Fears rejoined New England’s staff as wide receivers coach in 1999 after beginning his NFL tenure with the organization in 1991. The William & Mary product now stands in his 20th season overseeing the running backs. At age 66, with him are nine conference titles and six Super Bowl championships.
And many favorite quotes Bolden said he couldn’t repeat.
“He’s like a father, a grandfather to all of us. I love him to death. But some of the stuff he says will kind of have you scratching your head like, ‘Wow, I’ve never heard that combination of words put into a sentence before,’” added Bolden. “But I love him. The energy he brings to every practice, every meeting, every walkthrough and then just gameday, he’s like the most locked-in person, like he’s going out there and put on his pads.”
It’s an energy Bolden didn’t get to see after opting out of the 2020 season due to Covid-19 concerns as training camp opened last July.
“I love Ivan to death. Just looking at him on gameday gets me ready for a game. I missed him all of last year,” Bolden said. “I missed messing with him all of last year. The first thing I did when I got back was I took all his clothes out of his locker just to mess with him. That’s my guy. The first thing I did when I saw him, I gave him a big hug and I told Ivan, ‘I missed you.’ He was like, ‘I missed you, too.’ And I said, ‘You know I’m about to get on your nerves, right?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I expect that.’”