If ABC had a laboratory somewhere where they could create the perfect prototype for the Bachelor, he would look just like Colton Underwood, the franchise's official pick for its 23rd season.
Like Emma Stone once shouted at Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love: "It's like you're Photoshopped!" On paper, the 26-year-old is the perfect pick. Come on, just look at the bio that was posted for him on ABC.com when Becca Kufrin's contestants for The Bachelorette were announced:
Colton was named after the Indianapolis Colts which would turn out to be fitting for this lifelong football player. He played professionally for three teams before an injury forced him to retire. Post-football, Colton has dedicated himself to helping children fighting Cystic Fibrosis. When he's not working on his charity, he's spending time with his family and his dog, Sniper.
It's like a next Bachelor mad libs! They may as well have started fitting him for his Bachelor suits right then and there and started trimming the rose bush to stock up for the next season.
Of course, who knew the amount of drama Colton would end up providing between his run on The Bachelorette and on Bachelor in Paradise season five.
While most viewers are wary of the contestants that choose to go on the show--cynically (and realistically) believing that are in it for the social media followers and Insta-fame—Colton was one that savvy bachelor Nation fans were especially suspicious of, thanks to his dating history.
Colton's first brush with dating in the public eye came in 2016, when he was with the Oakland Raiders and asked out 2016 Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman in an online video. (His then-teammate Andrew West is married to her fellow Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson.)
After saying she would definitely go on a date with him, the pair dated for six months, even walking red carpets together before breaking up due to their busy schedules.
"We're still good friends and talk, but all that travel had been a nightmare," he told the PJ Star of their split, before going on to say the way they got together definitely "put a lot of pressure" on them. "But we had fun with it."
In interviews after the video went viral, Colton seemed surprise that such a wooing tactic would get so much attention.
"I was just asking a girl on a date and it sort of turned into something much bigger," Underwood he said.
Cut to two years later and Colton's relationship with the Olympic gymnast didn't even come up on the show...but his brief history with another Bachelor Nation fan-favorite definitely did.
Before Arie Luyendyk Jr. decided to pull off one of the biggest shockers in recent reality TV history—inadvertently handing producers their storyline for their next season—Tia Booth was all but set to be the Bachelorette after making it to his final four.
Prior to Arie's season airing, Colton and Tia began interacting on Instagram, as producers asked him to tell them his top three from Arie's contestants, based purely on looks, during his casting session. (He picked Becca, Tia and Lauren Burnham.) After that, he followed all three women on Instagram, with Tia following him back soon after.
They started talking soon after when Tia DMed him about his Instagram Story about Stranger Things and began texting, with Colton giving her the heads up that he was in talks to be on The Bachelorette.
But their flirtation was taken to the next level in January, when they spent his birthday weekend together in Los Angeles, with Colton renting an AirBnB. "It was a great date, great weekend," Colton said, adding that they left the weekend knowing they weren't ready to close out other options, with Tia saying she would still say yes if she was offered the Bachelorette gig.
When Becca was announced as the Bachelorette and Colton decided to go on, he said Tia texted him wishing him good luck just two days before filming began...but just a few weeks later, Colton came face-to-face with Tia on a group date just after revealing their history to Becca, one of her closest friends.
Though the three sat down and hashed everything out, with Tia saying she was cool with her BFF and her sort-of ex continuing to date, Colton was later "blindsided" when he learned Tia returned during the Hometown dates to tell Becca she still had feelings for Colton. Becca then sent Colton home, but insisted Tia's confession had nothing to do with her decision.
Colton's history with Tia and his headline-making admittance that he is a virgin—a bit more on that later—made him a target for the other men, leading to some tension during The Bachelorette's Men Tell All taping. Many viewers were surprised by hos defensive and combative Colton was, with some wondering if the outing coupled with his participation on Bachelor in Paradise could hurt his chances for being the next Bachelor.
But on Ben Higgins and Ashley Iaconetti's Almost Famous podcast, Colton had no regrets about his attitude at the Men Tell All.
"You get to see such a small portion of our personalities on The Bachelorette, that's always been somebody I am," he explained. "I'm not afraid to speak my mind. I'm not afraid to stand up for who I am. During the season, I was talking about serious things going on—nobody really got to see that edge and I have an edge to me and I stand up for myself."
In hindsight, it was actually a pretty smart move, knowing the more emotional, sensitive side Bachelor Nation would be seeing on Bachelor in Paradise, creating the perfect mix. Not too hard. Not too soft. Juuust right.
Of course, this was before fans got to see Colton's journey on Bachelor in Paradise, with most thinking he would come across poorly or that he and Tia would resolve their issues and become a couple on the spinoff, setting them up to be the franchise's next Jade and Tanner or Raven and Adam.
In the end, it did neither; it just perfectly set up his season of The Bachelor, with Colton handling the situation with Tia, his fellow castmembers' initial hostility and himself with class and restraint.
Clearly not over his breakup with Becca, Colton's "I'm fine!" veneer cracked soon after he stepped on the beach, thanks to the massive pressure from the Tia-supporting cast to just be with her rather than take his time and process his feelings. A surprise visit from a recently engaged Becca sent Colton over the edge, leading to a full-blown breakdown.
In an unusual move, producers had Becca sit down with Colton (pre-Men Tell All!), where he finally got the "closure" he was looking for. And Becca, in a now-extremely-telling moment, shared some wisdom with her ex.
"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 told our future Bachelor. "Don't be ashamed to let that out. I find it attractive and I know every girl here will find it attractive."
Like every girl watching season 23 of The Bachelor, you mean?
Colton soon went on to date Tia, giving their relationship its first real chance...and it was smooth sailing, minus a few rough spots (like Tia's BFF and BIP favorite Raven coming back to warn her that "Colton's past dating history has been the It Girl. You're the It Girl from your season!"), until Colton realized he wasn't "all in" and knew Tia deserved more.
It was sad and heartbreaking to watch, with a devastated Tia telling Colton, "You need to just really focus on this time and really figure yourself out, so you can fully give yourself to someone." (Wise words ahead of his next televised dating adventure, no?!)
An emotional Colton (seen at one point crying into the hood of his sleeveless hoodie) left the beach in tears, saying, "I just honestly feel like there's something wrong with me...I'm broken."
Just the way ABC likes their Bachelors.
While the decision to go on Bachelor in Paradise can often be a risky one for many contestants, especially the male ones, it was one that ended up paying off big time for Colton, giving him the edge over fellow next Bachelor contenders Jason Tartick and Blake Horstmann.
And ultimately, producers were looking at Colton's performance on Paradise to gauge his next Bachelor potential.
"We'll see how Paradise goes…he could be engaged by the end of Paradise," Rob Mills, ABC's senior VP of alternative programming, told E! News ahead of BIP's premiere. "If he wasn't though, he certainly has a lot of the attributes that you love in a Bachelor. There's a little bit of that Sean Lowe, not just in looks, but he's also a guy who is surprisingly funny and charismatic. Colton could be a very interesting Bachelor."
Aside from his impressive outing on BIP, there were other factors that lead to ABC choosing Colton over the other man in the running.
"Colton was by far the safest pick. He's a virgin and he works in non-profit. He screams wholesome, middle America," a source told E! News.
And after their last two leading man proved to be somewhat polarizing—especially in the case of Arie—producers wanted someone who fans could believe was in it for—you guessed it—the right reasons.
"I think, coming after Nick Viall and Arie Luyendyk, producers were keen to pick someone whose intentions would be viewed as sincere," our source said. "No one wants another questionably shady guy."
Someone like Sean Lowe, one of the most beloved Bachelors of all-time (who was a "born-again virgin"), whom Colton has obviously been compared to.
"I think it's a combination of sincerity and really just somebody who can have a lot of fun and be entertaining. I think that's why somebody like Sean Lowe worked so well, because he really was the perfect balance of that," Mills explained of what the show looks for in a Bachelor. "He was truly looking for a wife and he was very clear about that. But also, there was a real sense of fun from Sean. A great sense of humor. Everybody has different traits. That was one where I t thought it was sort of the right balance."
Plus, after producers chose to make Arie their next Bachelor when he hadn't appeared on a franchise show in over five years to less-than-stellar ratings, the race also became somewhat of a popularity contest—with Colton having the largest following on social media giving him yet another edge.
Throughout his time on both shows, Colton remained true to himself and his values--even when he was mocked by the other men, notably Jean Blanc who questioned the football player's masculinity because he was a virgin by making a crude comment during the Tell All special. Even his breakup with Tia in Monday night's episode of Bachelor in Paradise earned praise.
"That's one thing I took pride in in both seasons is just being true to who I am," Colton told Good Morning America's Michael Strahan on Tuesday morning. "I think it took all of that to get to where I'm at now and know who I am as a person and know what I want in a life partner."
And unlike some past contestants, Colton isn't conflicted about his feelings with the franchise or his "edit," saying his two-season stint has changed him for the better.
"It helped me grow as a person," he said on the Almost Famous podcast. "I liked what it did to me.
"The one thing that coming off of The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise is I am much more comfortable in my own skin now," he continued.
Now, that means continuing to be open and honest about his virginity (something he used to lie about) and what he really wants to do with his life (he admitted to playing football for years because it was what people expected of him), and he's ready to continue doing it in front of millions of people.
"'Third time's a charm.' That's what they say, right?" Colton said on GMA. "That's what I'm hoping for."
The Bachelor will premiere January 2019 on ABC.