The Army All-American recruit was feeling discomfort in his hip and started to do some rehab and therapy to improve it. The injury started to feel better as the Gators were preparing for fall camp. Thinking nothing of it, the freshman went out the first two days and wanted to earn a role on the 2014 defense.
When the third day of fall camp started, Holley could barely walk. He got an MRI done on the hip and found out his labrum was torn. He needed surgery to repair it and took a redshirt last season while recovering from the injury.
After coming out of the surgery, there were still questions.
“They said they feel that they did everything they could, fixed what they could fix, but basically they said the severity of the injury in my hip, that the longevity just depends on how my body reacts,” Thomas Holley said, noting that doctors found more complications in the hip during surgery than they expected. “I’m trying to live a life with no regrets and trying to work as hard as I can, do what I can. I could be done tomorrow, I could be done a year from now; I’m just going to make the best of it.”
There’s still some discomfort in the hip, but Holley said that’s normal after the surgery. It hurts worse some days more than others. The redshirt freshman is putting in the extra time in the training room that’s necessary to get the hip as healthy as possible.
He spent two months on crutches after the surgery and then did therapy for another two months after that. Holley paced himself while getting back into the weight room and then started to improve his flexibility.
The hardest part was being away from the field. Holley had never missed more than one week from any sport during his life, so he had to learn to be patient and trust that his time would come.
“It was definitely tough,” Holley said. “It was a very emotional time for me. Having to sit out that whole season, it was real tough on me mentally, physically. I just worked to get back on the field with my teammates. They were encouraging me, the coaches were encouraging me and just giving me words of wisdom. It definitely helped me out through that time period."
When Holley came to Gainesville, he showed up at 303 pounds. He’s now up to 320 pounds at the start of spring practice but trying to cut it to 315 pounds, which he believes would be his ideal weight.
The challenge now is to earn a role on the field. Florida lost Darious Cummings and Leon Orr from the defensive tackle position, and Jonathan Bullard come slide outside to get reps at defensive end if necessary. The numbers are fine at defensive tackle, but Holley still has a chance to play this year.
“Try and put myself in a position where I can be on the field come game time that first game,” Holley said when asked what a successful spring for him would be. “Just keep working. Having my name in the coach’s mouth through conversations and what not. Just showcase my talent. That’s really what you want to do, just get on the field. Whether it’s starting my first snap on defense or special teams. I’m going to work however I can to get on the field. I just want to impress the coaches.”