Sept. 11, 2000
by Dan Bent
As freshman student-athletes at Notre Dame will tell you, adjusting to college life is not exactly easy. Most find themselves away from home for the first time and forced to deal with new issues and opportunities. Student-athletes attempt to make new friends, adjust to a more challenging curriculum, achieve athletic success and still find the time to develop a social life.
Occasionally, the lure of family, friends and a familiar environment proves too strong for some student-athletes, and they begin to entertain thoughts of transferring to a school closer to home.
Senior Irish tight end Jabari Holloway used to count himself as one of those student-athletes.
Following the conclusion of his freshman year, Holloway returned home for summer vacation without any intention of returning to Notre Dame. The Riverdale, Ga., native had planned to call the coaches from home and inform them he was transferring.
"I basically just thought that I didn't fit in here as a student," Holloway said.
"I wanted to be closer to my parents as well as my friends. A lot of my friends stayed home at schools down south and this was just a different environment for me. My decision had nothing to do with the cold weather or anything like that. Personally, I like cold weather. I just felt like Notre Dame wasn't the place for me."
Holloway's parents, however, felt Notre Dame was the place for their son. After a few verbal arguments that summer with regard to what Notre Dame had to offer, and a little physical force from his mother, who at one point beat him over the head with a shoe, Holloway returned to campus for his sophomore season.
"You have to listen to your parents because they've been there and done that. They've been around," Holloway said.
"The Bible tells you to obey your parents. My mom told me to come back. My dad told me to come back. They told me that, right now, it may not seem like the best thing for me, but in the long run, it would be the best decision I'd ever make."
Once he returned to campus, Holloway sought to fulfill his potential as a member of the Notre Dame family. The previously reserved tight end actively experienced one of the University's student retreats and became a member of his dorm's interhall basketball team. He also opened up more to his neighbors and classmates.
"It's about adjustment," Holloway said.
"Here at Notre Dame, I'm in the minority, whereas back home, I'm in the majority. The environment's different, but it's all about growing up and learning and experiencing new things.
"To be honest with you, when I came here, I was narrow-minded. Everything I knew was black and white. But after I had been here a while, my eyes were opened up to different cultures and different relations. Back home, I had only black friends, but here I have friends from all ethnic groups. For a student-athlete, I think Notre Dame really teaches you to open up and become more diverse in what you do and how you think."
While Holloway acknowledges he has grown tremendously as a person, he contends he never would have truly experienced life at Notre Dame had it not been for the love and guidance of his parents.
"I always thank my parents for making me come back here to Notre Dame," Holloway said.
"My second year I got more involved in the community and started doing more activities around school. I felt like I belonged after that and I thank my parents for that. If I hadn't listened to them, I don't know where I'd be right now.
"It seems like I've grown closer in my relationship with my parents since I've been away from home. My mom doesn't always like it because I run up a phone bill, but I call my dad and my mom almost every night to talk to them about different things."
Holloway relied upon that constant support from home last season, as he was forced to miss extensive practice time due to two late afternoon classes. As a computer engineering major, Holloway's course load required that he attend a physics lab and a computer architecture lab. Despite his love for the game of football, he knew had to concentrate on his studies.
While Holloway took care of business in the classroom, his absence from the practice field allowed teammate and fellow 2000 captain Dan O'Leary to showcase his talents. O'Leary's performance was impressive enough that the coaches split the playing time between the two tight ends. While Holloway wishes he could have taken the field every day with his teammates, he does not regret his decision for one minute.
"I handled the situation as best I could," Holloway said.
"I missed practice, so I had to deal with it and that's all I could do. I respect what the coaches said and what the coaches did. They had to do what was best for the team. I realize, though, that I'm a student-athlete first. I have to take care of the books so that I'm eligible to play, so school had to come before football."
As a result of O'Leary's increased playing time last year, the two tight ends enter this season as a formidable one-two punch for the Irish.
"I think we bring different aspects to the team," Holloway said.
"Dan is more of a vocal person. I like to call him the cheerleader. He's pretty rah-rah, whereas I'm more quiet and I let my work on the field do the talking. Dan has great hands. I have good hands, too, but Dan might have the best hands on the team. Dan is also more of a finesse player, whereas I've become more of a power player. I'm more of a blocker, but I do have a little finesse in me. Overall, I think we make a pretty good tandem."
This dynamic duo did not develop just last season. A good-natured competition between the two evolved three years ago when O'Leary went down with an injury and Holloway was forced to replace him as a freshman.
"At first, it was a real competition," O'Leary said.
"We would fight every day for that top spot, but that only made each of us better. Now we have a certain respect for each other and a good friendship. We'll get on each other from time to time and just have fun with the whole situation."
"We were just helping each other and making each other better," Holloway said.
"Whenever you have two players at the same position with our caliber of talent, it always makes the other person better."
The friendly competition between the two captains has certainly helped Holloway develop his natural athletic ability. As he enters his fourth season, the preseason All-American has tallied 595 yards on 35 receptions and has scored seven career touchdowns. He has also earned a reputation as a playmaker. It was Holloway, for example, who recovered a fumble in the end zone with 2:40 remaining to give the Irish a thrilling, one-point victory over USC last season.
Because of his accomplishments, his size and his athletic ability, Holloway has received a lot of attention from National Football League scouts. Although he has always dreamed of playing in the NFL, Holloway does not put too much faith in all the talk of him being selected in next April's draft.
"God be willing, it would be a great opportunity to play in the NFL," Holloway said.
"I realize, though, that not everyone gets that opportunity, so I have to make the most of what I do have, and that's my engineering degree."
In addition to his degree, Holloway also holds the respect of his teammates. They unanimously voted him one of this year's captains, along with O'Leary, defensive end Grant Irons and linebacker Anthony Denman. As a team captain, Holloway believes it is part of his job to help counsel some of the younger players if they ever have thoughts of transferring. He discounts the notion, however, that he has earned that duty.
"Honestly, I haven't been through nearly as much as some of the other players have been through," Holloway said.
"Some of the other players have lost parents or siblings along the way, and I thank God that He's gotten me through these past four years with so little heartache. But I do try to work with the younger guys and encourage them so that, when those tough times come along, they know that somebody is there for them."