Junior tight end balances excellence in the classroom and on the field.
By KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
Assistant Sports Editor
People say junior tight end Jabari Holloway works hard.
If they want to see hard work, they should see his parents — both of whom took on second jobs in order to afford airfare to attend their son's games.
"My parents made a great effort to come up for every home game," said Holloway. "Both of my parents took on second jobs to take off some of the cost and pay for plane tickets."
Holloway said his parents raised him in the church, always teaching him the importance of putting his best effort forth.
He has taken that lesson to heart. Known as a workhorse on the field and a player who does it all, Holloway makes the big plays, averaging nearly 16 yards per reception.
Holloway has balanced his time at Notre Dame between football and studies. Off the field, Holloway is a Dean's List student and computer engineering major, earning a 3.205 grade-point average in the spring.
With one of the most demanding majors on campus, Holloway doesn't have a lot of time to spare. He is rarely able to socialize with the other players outside of practice. Holloway said one of the few players he spends time with is Justin Smith, who is also an engineering major.
Earlier this season, Holloway was forced to miss practice time for an engineering lab.
"It's already hard enough," said Holloway. "You have to focus even harder when you miss the first couple periods [at practice] and have to hit the ground running."
Despite the tough course load, Holloway has excelled in the classroom and on the field.
In seven games this season, Holloway has made seven receptions for 110 yards, scoring two touchdowns along the way. He has split time at tight end with senior Dan O'Leary.
"We're both striving to be the best that we can be and to prove that we can be an integral part of the offense," said O'Leary. "That has made us both better players."
"As with every position," said Holloway. "It's nice to have two quality guys that you can call on at the drop of a dime."
Prior to the USC game, O'Leary `s playing time had been increasing, but Holloway turned the situation around with his outstanding play against the Trojans.
One of Holloway's biggest plays of the 1999 season came in the 25-24 nail-biter victory over USC. Quarterback Jarious Jackson fumbled the football three yards away from the goal line, and Holloway recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
"I thought Jabari came back against USC, though, and really played well. Probably played his best football game of the year," said head football coach Bob Davie. "That is what you like to see. You like to see players respond when they have pressure put on them by other players."
This year, Holloway was named first-team pre-season All-American by Lindy's, as well as the seventh-best tight end in the nation by Sporting News.
An All-American in high school, Holloway was recruited by nearly every college in the country. He looked seriously at attending Tennessee, Virginia, Florida and Stanford, before selecting Notre Dame.
"I think the reason I chose to come to Notre Dame was because it had a good business school," said Holloway. "Then once I had already committed to Notre Dame, I decided that not many people do engineering and I'm the kind of guy that likes to go out and do something different."
Holloway has made a big impact since his freshman year playing for the Irish, when he played in 12 of 13 games, starting six. He had eight receptions that season, averaging 18 yards per reception. He scored his first touchdown against Stanford, on an 11-yard-pass from quarterback Ron Powlus, which gave Notre Dame the early 9-7 lead in the game.
But he also had a tough time adjusting to college life and being 1000 miles from his home in Riverdale, Ga., and his family.
"I was a long way from home, and I really missed my parents," said Holloway. "I liked the school, but the fact that I was a long way from home was hard."
By his sophomore year, Holloway had made the transition to life in Indiana. As a sophomore, Holloway was the second-leading receiver for the Irish with 15 receptions. He had two touchdowns in the 1998 campaign, with his longest catch being 51 yards.
Despite his success on the gridiron, Holloway didn't always picture himself becoming a college football player.
"Actually, I wanted to be a basketball player," said Holloway. "I always thought that I was going to be a 6-[foot]-9 power forward, go to Michigan, and be the next Chris Webber."
His dream of becoming a college basketball player ended one day when he broke his hand in football practice. The doctor told Holloway, based upon his bone structure, that he would be 6-foot-2 or 3 — if he was lucky.
"I literally cried for two days. I skipped school for two days," said Holloway. "That's all I thought about."
Holloway kept on playing basketball through his senior year of high school. His high school, Sandy Creek, qualified for the state playoffs his senior year, an accomplishment Holloway considers his greatest personal athletic moment.
Holloway didn't give up basketball completely. His bookstore team, called Cocoa Butter, advanced to the round of eight last spring. Two members of the track team and fellow football players John Owens, a tight end, and Tony Fisher, a tailback, joined Holloway on the Bookstore team.
A dangerous player on the football field, Holloway appears formidable off the field as well, towering over most people at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 260 pounds. However, his size serves as a facade for a nice guy who is reserved and gentlemanly.
One would be hard-pressed to make a bad remark about Holloway, whose talent, work ethic and off-field behavior combine to form one outstanding player.
If he keeps making plays like his fumble recovery that won the game against USC, Holloway may someday be getting calls from NFL coaches.
"If God be willing," said Holloway, he would be happy to play in the NFL. "It's every little kid's dream to make it professionally."
All Sports Stories for Friday, October 29, 1999