It has reached the point with Charleston Southern senior running back Mike Holloway where every carry is another line on his resume, every game a job application.
The NFL scouts have been showing up for a while now to assess him, to measure him, to wonder about him. Is he big enough to play professionally, at 5-8 and 195 pounds? Can he make the jump from FCS to the NFL?
He believes both questions can be answered in the affirmative, and acknowledged that he thinks about playing at the next level all the time.
“I was just talking to our strength coach about that,” he said. “I was like, ‘I’m ready for the season to be over, but then I’m not ready.’ I want every moment to last. I’m just ready for the next chapter in my life.”
Back and forth he goes, his mind jumping ahead one moment, returning to the present the next.
“I’m hoping to play until January,” he said. “That would be beautiful.”
Certainly the Buccaneers seem poised to make a postseason run. One year after going 10-3, winning a Big South championship and reaching the FCS quarterfinals, they are 5-2 heading into Saturday’s gamed on ASN against Gardner-Webb (3-6).
The Bucs, eighth in the STATS FCS poll and ninth in the FCS Coaches Poll, have won four consecutive games and are 2-0 in conference play, leaving them a half-game behind Liberty (5-3, 3-0) in the Big South.
Holloway has contributed 617 yards on just 64 rushes, an FCS-best 9.6 yards per carry. He leads the Big South in rushing yards per game (102.8), all-purpose yards per game (128.2) and scoring (nine touchdowns, eight of them on the ground).
Coach Jamey Chadwell called him “an electric football player” while talking to reporters after Holloway generated 214 all-purpose yards and scored twice in a 35-7 rout of Monmouth on Sept. 24. And running backs coach Newland Isaac said in a school-produced video that besides his obvious explosiveness, Holloway is also patient enough to set up blocks.
“Once he makes his mind up and makes that decision (to cut),” Isaac said, “it’s pretty definite that he’s probably going to be out.”
Out in the open field, doing damage.
Holloway recently passed Christian Reyes as the school’s all-time leading rusher; he now has 2,359 yards, 159 more than Reyes, a teammate in ’13 and ’14. And he admits that there are times when he looks at game video and surprises himself with the things that he does.
“I guess when I’m on the field, it probably doesn’t look the same, because I’m actually in real time,” he said with a chuckle, “but when I look back it’s like, ‘Wow, I’m pretty quick.’ ”
It happened most recently during a review of the 38-3 rout of Presbyterian on Oct. 22. It was a quiet game for Holloway – seven carries for 27 yards, four catches for 36. But on one play he caught a ball in the flat, with only a linebacker to beat.
“And,” he said, “I kind of put a move on the linebacker, but I didn’t think it was that bad. But I looked on film, and I really broke the linebacker down. That kind of threw me off.”
His quickness and elusiveness are two of the bigger reasons the scouts keep coming around. They measure him, look him up and down.
“It’s kind of weird,” he said. “They tell me to, like, turn around and take measurements and just look at me. I’m not used to it. But all cool people. Just want to know what I’m like.”
So they ask him questions, like whether he would be content just playing special teams in the pros.
“I’m like, ‘Of course; I’m on the roster,’” he said.
He is a fan of long-time NFL running back Frank Gore, who at 5-9 is another sawed-off star. Gore, however, has carried at least 20 pounds more than Holloway throughout a career that is now in its 12th year. Then there is 5-6, 190-pound Darren Sproles, currently with the Philadelphia Eagles, who has somehow survived 11 pro seasons.
“That man is explosive,” Holloway said. “I mean, that’s a good motivator, too. There’s a lot that I think about.”
From the time he started playing in the rec leagues in his hometown of Stone Mountain, Ga., at age 6, he has always been quicker than everybody else. He starred at Arabia Mountain High School, but was lightly recruited.
Test scores, he said.
“But luckily Charleston Southern had this Bridge Program that really helped me out — just helped me get into the school,” he said, referring to a program that according to the school’s website equips students with “the knowledge, the skills and the resources necessary to successfully earn a degree.”
“The rest,” he said, “is history.”
He rushed for 421 yards (10.5 per rush) and 590 (7.7) as Reyes’ backup his first two seasons, then 731 (6.1) last year, while tag-teaming with Darius Hammond. Hammond has also accounted for 244 yards on the ground this season.
And Holloway, for his part, has an eye on the future while continuing to build his resume, one carry at a time.
Photo courtesy Jim Killian/Charleston Southern