Before the season, Madison Academy head football coach Eric Cohu told i4sportsonline, “We focus on forward looking. We’ve celebrated the championship; now it’s time to turn the page. We’re looking at 2013.” Well, that focus resulted in a school-best 15-win undefeated season and second straight 3A state championship. The Mustangs got out of the blocks […]
By Budd McLaughlin • Photos by Chris Jensen
Nick Holman is just your average high school student.
That is, if every high school student is 6-foot-2, weighs about 230 pounds, is at the top of national football recruiting lists and has a solid GPA.
OK, so, maybe he’s not just an average high school student. But he is one heckuva football player.
Holman is a starting linebacker for Bob Jones High School and one of the reasons the Patriots are playoff-bound this season.
He’s ranked among the top linebackers in the state and nation. In fact, he was named to the Alabama squad in the annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game in December.
Ironically, he didn’t start out his high school career as a linebacker. He was a lineman at Class 3A Madison Academy before he transferred to 6A Bob Jones.
And the transformation didn’t come easily or quickly.
“He had his hand on the ground (as a defensive end at Madison Academy) and he wanted to stand up (as a linebacker),” said Bob Jones head coach Kevin Rose. “It took a little while to get up to speed but he caught on.
“Now he’s a Division I linebacker.”
But not for Alabama or Auburn. He committed to the University of South Florida.
“When we went to Tampa, it felt like home,” Holman said of a visit there. “I know I’m going to a good university.”
Holman made the gamut of visits over the summer. He saw and worked out in as diverse places as Minnesota; Lafayette, La.; Tuscaloosa; Auburn. He also experienced the life of a recruit.
“At first it was really exciting,” he said. “Then it gets to a point … there are so many games in the recruiting process. They would say ‘If you come to our camp, we’ll offer.’
“But they don’t.”
Holman said it wasn’t all bad, though. He got to see a variety of lifestyles and culture during his travels.
“The most fun trips were Minnesota, I saw how different they are there,” he said. “And I liked Louisiana-Lafayette a lot.”
But it all came back to USF, which was apparently a quick decision by the school as well.
“Coach (Willie) Taggart is known as a guy who can turn a program around,” Holman said. “He’s a really good recruiter.”
Holman said he was contacted by USF about a month ago and they talked. He said they needed a middle linebacker because “they have a dude right now (DeDe Lattimore) who’ll be in the league (NFL) next year.”
“I’ve always started and I want to play.”
He said after the initial contact, it was just a matter of days before the Bulls made an offer.
“They saw my film on Tuesday and called Wednesday,” Holman said. “Two weeks later, they offered me.
“One of the things that drew me so quick was I’m a guy they really want.”
But for the last several months, it seemed he was a guy a lot of teams really wanted.
“Ever since the beginning of the summer, I was getting contacted,” Holman said. “And everybody knew about it.
“There’s good and bad about that, too. Now, if I do something, everybody knows about it.”
Rose said the Bulls are not just getting a good player but a quality person, as well. “He’s just a great kid,” he said. “He’s an asset to our program … on the field and off.”
And he’s a guy that opposing teams keep their eyes on. Which is just fine for Holman.
“I don’t really think about (the attention),” he said. “But that’s fine. I don’t mind being the guy they look for. That will make it easier for the other guys.”
And he plans to make it hard for the other guys when he’s on the field for South Florida. Especially if he plays against the teams that didn’t give him a shot – or an offer.
“Like Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt and former Madison Academy receiver), I didn’t get a lot of offers,” Holman said. “He’s showing them now and maybe I can, too.”
And, no doubt he will. Just like any other student.