“Hey, keep the faith,” one guy told Penn State's quarterback. “It's gonna work out.”
“Hope to see ya stay,” another fan said. “We need ya, Rob.”
A little while later, Joe Paterno sounded optimistic that Bolden would return in the fall, after being denied a transfer by the head coach in January and having little choice but to remain with the team for spring practice.
“I haven't given that (potential departure) any thought,” Paterno said. “I would obviously hope that's behind him.”
But it's not. Bolden said after the rain-shortened scrimmage that he has not yet decided whether he will stay or go at the end of the current semester, and has no timeline for making up his mind. Nor would he give any indication of which way he is leaning.
As he said, “There's no percentage.”
Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, who also seemed upbeat about Bolden returning, said the coaches would meet with the youngster at some point. But the more important meeting would appear to be the one between Bolden and his family, date and time to be determined.
“There's nothing wrong with anything, outside of football,” he said. “But obviously there's some things I think should be different.”
He believes he should be coached more than he was last year, and he said that has been the case this spring -- that Joe and Jay Paterno have challenged him, helped him improve. He also believes he should play more.
But he neither expected nor wanted to hear from the coaches that he would be the starter, come this fall. And Joe Paterno, for his part, said he felt “no need” to name a starter at this point, though he did say he was “99 percent sure” it would be Bolden, the starter at the beginning of last year, or Matt McGloin, who had inherited the job by season's end.
So everyone waits to see what happens next. Bolden insisted that his hesitance to make an announcement to date should not be interpreted as an indication he's leaving.
“I'm here,” he said. “I'm at Penn State. I'm having fun. I wish I could stay. I possibly could. But I don't know.”
In fact, he said he wavers from one day to the next.
He has huddled with former PSU quarterbacks Daryll Clark and Michael Robinson this spring, Clark breaking down 2010 game film with him to help him smooth out the rough spots and Robinson giving him a pep talk.
“He told me to keep staying with it,” Bolden said. “He didn't tell me what to do, per se. He just told me to stay with it and be the best while I'm here.”
As Jay Paterno pointed out, Robinson nearly transferred when he was at Penn State. He recalled repeated phone conversations with Robinson's mother, many times when they agreed to disagree.
The difference between that situation and the one involving Bolden was that Robinson was moved from one position to another throughout his career, before finally settling in as the starter in 2005 and leading the Lions to a Big Ten championship.
Bolden became the first freshman to start a season opener at QB under Joe Paterno last year, and started the next six games as well. Then he suffered a concussion against Minnesota and was held out of the Michigan game the following week; McGloin started in his place. Bolden returned to the lineup the week after that, against Northwestern, only to be spelled early in the game by McGloin.
Bolden seldom played again. He didn't even appear in the Outback Bowl loss to Florida, a game in which McGloin was intercepted five times. (Joe Paterno admitted the day after the game that he second-guessed himself for not using Bolden more often late in the year.)
“I don't feel anybody should lose their job due to injury,” Bolden said Saturday.
He has said that he made up his mind to transfer before the bowl game. But that was something of a last straw.
“Obviously,” he said, “last year the season didn't end the way I wanted it to. But you've got to take that. I want to see where I go from here.”
His dad, Rob Sr., has been outspoken about his displeasure with the way things unfolded. He was particularly annoyed that he had to drive from the family's home in Michigan for the meeting with the elder Paterno, only to be told that Rob Jr. would not be released from his scholarship.
The impression lingers that the elder Bolden is calling the shots.
But Rob Jr. said, “I make my own decisions.”
He also said he has “no hard feelings at all” about being denied his release. He is happy about the way things have gone this spring, and believes he is being given every opportunity to win the job.
But clearly he needs to think things through.
“At this point I'm here and I'm with my teammates,” he said, “and everything is going just fine, so I'll have to see where I am with my family and everything, just to see what I do.”