And Colton Underwood would be the first to admit he wasn’t formed into being as a 6-foot-3 former pro football player with perfect abs just begging for nonstop shower sequences. “Grade school Colton probably would be really shy and timid by the fact that he was just named the Bachelor,” he shared on the Jan. 7 premiere of ABC’s beloved love hunt. “I was at a Christian school and I was always, like, the fat, chunky, awkward weird kid.”
While the Indianapolis native had a bit of an ugly duckling emerging into a swan transformation when he discovered his football skills at Illinois’ Washington Community High School, ditched his bottom retainer and found a way to clear up his skin, before then there were a lot of days he wished he could call out sick, often struggling to fit in with the other kids. And romantic prospects were certainly out of the question: “I didn’t have girlfriends.”
Still, he’s heard all of the criticism about how he’s not ready to get down on one knee and ask one lucky final rose recipient to agree to forever and he politely disagrees. “I know I have a lot of room to grow, but I also have an idea of what I want now and that’s what’s so exciting about this,” he insisted on the premiere. “It’s just the perfect time for me to focus on finding the person who I’m going to be spending the rest of my life with.”
“Just wanted to congratulate you on all your success in the competitions and representing the USA over there,” he said in the video that Yahoo! Sports played for a bashful Raisman, fresh off a three medal showing at the Rio de Janiero games. “I know I’ve been following along. My roommate, my teammates, everybody here is super proud of you. You know, if you’re ever in San Jose and wanna go on a double date with me and Andrew and Shawn, let me know.”
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“We happened to both be in Denver at the same time,” she told People of their first date, which took place not long after she and her teammates attended the MTV VMAs in August. “I was there for less than 12 hours, he was flying in for just a few days. it just ended up working perfectly.”
And for a spell they had one of the most endearing romances in young Hollywood. She spent Christmas at his grandparents’ place in Illinois, gamely wearing matching festive PJs. He turned up as her date at the Golden Globes. Soon he was tweeting out public Valentine’s Day wishes and she was praising him for working around her peripatetic existence.
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Together, the two athletes enjoyed bingeing This Is Us and, naturally, hitting the gym. “We have now boxed together in four different cities, so we hit somebody up and we find a gym and it always works out great,” he said. “It’s really different than what we’re used to, training-wise, so it’s really good for your body.”
Having him as a workout buddy was extra motivating, she added. “We like to give each other workout tips because I think it’s good for both of our sports. I work out more when I’m with him because he gets up and I feel bad lying in bed while he works out.”
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As for their relationship now, “It ended fine,” he swore. “We’re in a good place.”
Splitting from the woman he would later call “my first love,” was certainly tough, and harrowing enough that he labeled it his worst heartbreak during an appearance last week on the LadyGang podcast. Still, he said, “While it was confusing and it was hard in the beginning, it also taught me a lot about myself: What I need, what I want, what I can do better in a relationship. It was a big step for me. It was really tough.”
And yet something even messier was ahead just on the horizon.
Never too early to start studying up, right?
Physical therapist Booth—fresh off her Luyendyk-induced heartbreak—followed him back, sliding into his DMs when he posted about his love of Stranger Things and soon they struck up a digital flirtation. Underwood revealed he was in talks to do The Bachelorette and Booth responded she was a front-runner to be the Bachelorette, her feisty charm and top four finish making her a virtual lock before Luyendyk Jr.’s switcheroo left Kufrin just distraught enough to begin a journey of her own.
Just not mind-blowing enough for either of them to chance altering their romantic destiny. Booth said if ABC came calling with a rolling rack of designer dresses and the promise of 30 attractive suitors, she’d still say yes, and even if she wasn’t the one presiding over the rose ceremonies, Underwood intended to be there. “There wasn’t enough for me to say, ‘Hey, this is my person, I’m closing all my options out,'” he explained. So when he got the call and Booth didn’t, they said their goodbyes, the outspoken brunette sending him a good luck text just two days before he flew out to the mansion.
Which he was, falling so hard for the bubbly Minnesota native that “I was ready to really take the next step,” he swore on the show. “I was ready to lose my virginity to Becca.” (And, presumably after that, select a Neil Lane diamond of her choosing and get down on one knee.)
Kufrin, however, felt differently. While Booth’s last-minute confession that, actually, yeah, she was still crushing hard on Underwood and it had been hard to stomach that her friend was falling for him too doubtlessly complicated things, she said she intended to send him packing after hometowns either way.
Crushed, he accepted his consolation prize: an all-expenses paid trip to the Playa Escondida Resort where Booth would be waiting in Paradise.
“I feel like we just have a big question mark right now because we haven’t talked since he left for filming and we saw each other on the group date,” Booth told E! News. “Going into it I would be nervous to talk to him if he was here, but it would also be a relief just to have everything out on the table.”
For a bit, both options seem equally likely. From the moment Underwood set foot on the beach, the whole cast, especially Booth, seemed certain that they would couple up and being their journey to Tanner Tolbert—Jade Roper status. So when he didn’t make it immediately clear he intended to end the season on one knee, his rose-seeking counterparts turned on him. His all-American good guy veneer already cracking, he went into full meltdown when Kufrin made a surprise appearance on the beach.
In an effort to provide him with the closure he so so desperately needed, she encouraged him to get in touch with his emotions. “You know you’re a strong person. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel things that aren’t always pretty and perfect,” she shared. “Don’t be ashamed to let that out.”
Fast-forward a handful of months and he was declaring himself ready to give his all to many someones. As the Bachelor, he was the safe choice ABC felt the need to make after the somewhat rocky appearances that were Nick Viall and Luyendyk Jr. A former pro athlete who’s dedicated his life to helping children fight Cystic Fibrosis with a cute dog to boot? Perfect wholesome fare. ”
His only challenge has been to prove he was ready, really ready to commit to a forever, something he’s sworn up and down to every interviewer that asked.
And though he’s unwilling to spoil the ending, beyond telling E! News, “I would say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been right now,” he certainly hints that he got the requisite fairytale ending. “I know my dad and my mom are looking forward to having a new daughter-in-law,” he told Us Weekly. As for him, “I’m excited for the potential to start my own family and to share the rest of my life with someone!”