Bachelor Nation won't need to look through rose-colored glasses to view a whole different side of Colton Underwood this season on the ABC reality dating competition. "For a long time I was just a football player, but I want people to see me for who I am,” the former NFL tight end told People in an interview published on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
And just who is he? “I’m not this perfect dude," the reality star also shared. "I have mistakes and I have flaws but I’m going to grow and get better from it.”
Colton, who first won over fans on Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette last summer, also admitted that he recognizes how and why his past actions might have "come off as disingenuous" as they played out on TV: "Throughout my football career, I’ve always been somebody who’s been very aware and I know when the camera is on me and I know how to be polished."
Filming Season 23 of The Bachelor (premiering on Monday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC), however, "for the first time, it was like this is really me," Colton also told People. “I’m undeniably myself, and I think realizing that is the way to live life. I may be goofy, I may be corny and I may be cheesy, but I’m me.”
Following his stint on The Bachelorette, the Indianapolis native, who previously dated Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, continued his televised journey to find love on ABC's summer spinoff Bachelor in Paradise. While in Mexico, Colton reignited an old flame with on and off again girlfriend Tia Booth. By season's end, they broke up once again, but the new Bachelor insists that everything is now cool between them — and even with Becca, for that matter.
“I consider them friends now,” Colton also revealed to People. “They’re supportive of me, and they’re happy.
He also has the full support of Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss, who chose Colton over fellow Bachelorette Season 14 contestants Blake Horstmann and Jason Tartick. As Fleiss recently explained to Entertainment Weekly:
"We like this guy. He’s interesting, he’s certainly hunky, he looks the part, he’s an all-American kid, a football player. The virginity thing is interesting. And we think that just the potential of [Colton losing his virginity] creates added stakes for this season. When we sat with all the guys that we were considering, Colton just seemed like a star. When you’re in the room with him, you’re like, that’s a big personality, a big presence. He just won us over. And he has grown from the time he was on Bachelorette. I think the Bachelor in Paradise experience did add to his maturity."
As evidenced by new Bachelor promos, the well-documented "virginity thing" Fleiss referred to will, of course, likely be a running theme throughout the new season. "What does he have to lose?" read a cheeky tagline on one of Colton's official Bachelor posters. In another ad, Colton channeled Steve Carell's 40-Year-Old Virgin character.
In a sneak peek of the Season 23 premiere, one woman revealed, "I have not dated a virgin since I was 12!" That was but one of the trailer's several references to either Colton's virgin status or the possibility he might lose his V-card during the season.
Regardless of how all of that will play out on The Bachelor, Colton has certainly made clear that he won't be the same guy you expect this year. Perhaps the third time will be a charm.