If Kelvin Bolden needs a point of reference in his young coaching career, all he has to do is look back to his playing days at Southern Miss.
Walt Bell was a graduate assistant at USM in 2010 helping prepare a group of young, talented receivers that included Bolden.
Fast forward eight years: Bell is a week into his new job as offensive coordinator at Florida State.
Bolden, 28, also happens to be just a few days into his new position — graduate assistant at Arkansas.
Bolden, who was a star receiver at Ocean Springs High School, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and then USM, has taken an important step in his career by landing a spot on an SEC staff.
He spent last season as the receivers coach at Div. II Shorter College in Rome, Georgia. Prior to that, he worked two years as the wide receivers coach at Pearl River Community College.
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity working with (offensive coordinator) Joe Craddock, (head coach) Chad Morris and receivers coach Justin Stepp,” Bolden said Tuesday.
Bolden landed at Arkansas thanks to some connections he developed while on the staff at PRCC.
“Joe Craddock, the offensive coordinator, gave me the opportunity up here,” Bolden said. “When I was at PRCC, I was just networking and stayed in contact with him.”
An undersized receiver who went by the nickname, “Peanut,” Bolden always had the reputation as a scrappy receiver who overachieved.
In two years at USM, he caught a total of 104 passes for 1,393 yards and 13 touchdowns. He never quite caught on in the NFL or CFL and eventually decided he wanted to give coaching a try.
The move has worked out so far.
Bolden had a short, but successful stint at Shorter. He helped mold Lewis Hayes into an All-Gulf South Conference selection with 56 catches for 801 yards and four touchdowns this past season. Hayes set single-season records for receptions and receiving yardage.
While helping develop players like Hayes, Bolden found his groove as a coach.
“It made me very confident as a coach,” Bolden said. “I was confident at PRCC, but it was a good experience at a four-year school.”
At Arkansas, Bolden is hoping to make progress toward eventually landing a full-time job at a large program.
“I’ve seen guys that took a graduate assistant spot and just blew up,” Bolden said. “I’m working around great people and great analysts like G.J. Kinne, who I played against when he was the quarterback at Tulsa. He’s an offensive analyst working with the quarterbacks. He’s a guy that can blow up in the next year or two and become an offensive coordinator.
“It’s a great opportunity to continue to learn, grow as a coach and be around great people. I’ll continue to learn under a great position coach like Justin Stepp.”
Bolden will help with breaking down film and pitch in on the recruiting side at Arkansas. He’ll also work with the Arkansas receiving corps, which includes former Gulfport star Jonathan Nance, who caught 37 passes for 539 yards and five scores last season.
“I’m just learning, getting to know everybody from the defensive staff and the offensive staff,” Bolden said. “I’m the new guy. I’m just getting to know everybody and helping in recruiting.”