Colton Underwood Addresses Critics of His 'Bachelor' Casting (Exclusive)

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Colton Underwood is blocking out the haters. 

Bachelor Nation was divided when the former NFL player was announced as our next franchise lead in September, but he's not taking any of the negativity to heart. In fact, as he told ET's Lauren Zima at our exclusive interview at his official Bachelor photo shoot before his season started, when it came to accepting the job, he had "zero hesitations."

"I haven't paid attention to it too much," he said of criticism of his position as Bachelor. "But I'm not perfect.... I'm just focused on finding my wife and being here and living in the moment." 

Part of the reason some fans were concerned about Underwood being the Bachelor was his portrayal on Bachelor in Paradise over the summer. Fans saw highs and lows of his relationship with Tia Booth, as well as a major breakdown in which Underwood confessed he wasn't sure if he was over his romance with Bachelorette Becca Kufrin. According to Underwood, however, it was those experiences that convinced him he was ready to find love on TV for a third time. 

"There probably would've been a little hesitation if I didn't do Bachelorette or Bachelor in Paradise before, because it finally allowed me to take a step back from the situation and see what I've learned and how I've grown," he explained, adding that he's really "come into my own." "There was zero hesitations once it was all through."

Both of Underwood's Bachelor exes, Kufrin and Booth, were supportive of his appointment as Bachelor. "I've spoken to both of them since being announced, and they're both super excited. They were very encouraging, and I wouldn't expect anything less because that's the type of people that they are," he told ET, adding that he's also cleared the air with the other contenders for Bachelor -- Blake Horstmann and Jason Tartick. 

"We have [talked things out]," he said. "That's the beauty of all this. We said going into it, 'We're never gonna let this shift our friendship.' We have such a good support system, that was one thing we knew coming up on Becca's season, we all shared this weird bond, this weird brotherhood, this friendship, and it was so cool and unique."

Underwood -- who also opened up to ET about being the first virgin Bachelor -- called his new gig the "opportunity of a lifetime." 

"[It's] an opportunity for me to find love. And it's something I want so badly, so I'm super excited and I can't wait to prove some people wrong, and then also, you know, continue to grow into the person I am, [and] continue to grow with somebody," he shared. "I think that's the beautiful thing about all this, is while I could be falling in love, I can continue to grow and share that experience with somebody else." 

The 26-year-old said he really is ready to find his future wife. 

"I'm all in. I want to find a wife, I want to find somebody who I'm going to spend the rest of my life with. I want to find somebody who is going to be a mother to my children," he said, noting that his age has nothing to do with his preparedness to settle down. "My mom had me when she was 24, so I want to be a young, cool dad. I want to have some fun with my kids growing up." 

The Bachelor returns Monday, Jan. 7  at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC -- join ET's Bachelor Nation Facebook group here

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