Don't Call Him Slow

It's been nearly three years since Mell Holliday played in a football game. He could, however, be Colorado's starting tailback Saturday when the Buffs open their season at home against Montana State.

During one practice about midway through August drills, tailback Mell Holliday took a handoff, found a hole and burst into the defensive secondary. Once there, Holliday saw the end zone some 30 yards away, but cornerbacks Terrence Wheatley and Terry Washington — two of the fastest players on the CU team — saw where Holliday was headed and took chase.

The corners didn't catch Holliday. His teammates took notice.

"A lot of people said they didn't think I was that fast," Holliday said. "That kind of made me mad that people thought I was that slow. When I get the chance to show my speed, I do."

Holliday will get a chance to show his running style — and possibly his speed — Saturday. Whether or not he or Hugh Charles or Byron Ellis is on the field when the CU offense takes the field first, all three are expected to get carries.

"We've got three different backs and each has a certain amount of plays that we each run better than the other," Holliday said. "Then we've got different formations that might call for different personnel."

When Holliday plays, it'll be his first action since a game for Wayne State College in October 2003. Holliday gained 60 yards on 6 carries in that game before re-injuring his ankle. He missed the rest of that season, then transferred to the University of Nebraska the following year.

He had a walk-on tryout at NU in 2004, but didn't make the team. Holliday then transferred to Colorado last year with the understanding he wouldn't have to sit out the required transfer year because he was never part of the Nebraska football team. But the NCAA ruled against Holliday.

Now he's got one season of eligibility left.

"It's something I've been really looking forward to," Holliday said. "I've got a lot of stuff to prove – it's a lot for me to get off my chest, finally getting the chance to get out there and play."

He said the most difficult part about waiting to play has been just that – the waiting.

"I've always been a hard worker, preparing and just staying in shape for when I got the chance to play," he said. "But it's just the wait – being around the game but not being able to play. It messes with your heart."

Holliday turned heads in August camp, closing the gap between himself and Charles, who a month ago looked to be the workhorse out of the backfield. Holliday displayed a different kind of running style to Charles' pedal-to-the-metal tendency, one that seems suited for the CU run game.

Offensive coaches call the type of running game they're trying to cultivate "Slow to, fast through." It calls for backs to be patient at the line of scrimmage and allow the blockers to open a hole, then burst through it. It's something Holliday has been effective at doing. At a shade over 200 pounds, he's also a physical runner.

But Holliday said he can, and will, turn on the speed when necessary. He had finals and didn't take part in the 40-yard dash in May when the team was timed in the event. Holliday said the last time he ran a 40 was in 2004 when he tried out at Nebraska. He said the best 40 time he's ever run is 4.53.

Maybe he's one of those runners that's just football fast.

"I don't think I'm that slow," he said. "I figure when I get the chance to show it this season, I will."

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