Kan Li / Scout

New success for Gators' Holley

One of the breakthrough stories of this spring practice session for the Gators is Florida redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Thomas Holley and his ability even to get on the field and play. Holley was an Under Armour All-American defensive tackle from Brooklyn, New York coming out of high school that had issues with his hip before things ever got going for him here at Florida.  He’s made drastic changes just to get on the field.

Thomas Holley came to Florida as a 4-star defensive tackle that only played two years of high school football. Known for his basketball prowess early in high school, Holley showed the size, strength, and power to be possibly be a good football player, so he tried… and he liked it a lot.

In just two short years, Holley used his athleticism to go along with his elite size (some 6-foot-3, 290 pounds or so) to become the All-American and rake in dozens of big time football scholarships along the way.

The big man had a hernia issue that the doctor’s diagnosed before his arrival at Florida, but that hernia turned into something even more serious when they found he had a torn labrum in his hip.  It would require surgery in August of 2014 and he would miss football in his first year on campus.

After recovering from the surgery, Holley pushed himself to make it back in the spring and fall of 2015. He fought through pain that they just couldn’t make go away. He saw action in seven games and made three tackles suffering through the pain the entire season.

Doctors told him he was likely going to have to give up football. He wasn’t hurting himself any more by playing, but the pain wasn’t likely to go away. But he had another plan.

“It’s kind of a motivational story, teammate Caleb Brantley told the Florida media on Wednesday. “His doubters told him he couldn’t play anymore. He came out and tried to play, but always had problems with the hip. Then he lost 50-60 pounds. His hip isn’t bothering him anymore.  They told him they didn’t want him to play, but he loved football and wanted to play.”

Before the 2015 season, Holley was listed at 320 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. You need that kind of weight to play on the interior of the defensive line and with his quick feet from his basketball days it was supposed to be a lethal combination.

But, in order for the pain to go away, he lost a lot of weight. In so doing, he will now work to play on the edge as a defensive end. He’s a solid 260 pounds now and the pain isn’t there, or is minimal enough were it isn’t an issue.

“He worked his ass off trying to learn the drills for the different position… trying to learn defensive end,” Brantley would say.

It has taken work, but Holley looks to be excited about his new position and his new look. He’s trying to work on Brantley now.  

“He’s got me trying to keep up with him,” Brantley said about the weight loss. “He eats salads all the time. I’m like ‘bro, can we eat some real food? We’re big guys.’” 

Florida defensive coordinator is happy to have Holley back in whatever form he can have him. Collins says his young defensive end really looks impressive with the weight loss.

“It’s been great, he’s lost a lot of weight, I think he’s trying to turn into a body builder,” Collins quipped.

Collins said along with a hard worker on and off the court to get where he is, Holley is a good person and someone you should root for.

“He’s got an ab or two, I don’t want to say he has a full six-pack but there are a couple (ribs) sticking out,” Collins said. “He’s such a great kid, you could never tell (about him hurting). He’s always positive and has a great attitude. He’s always fun to be around and excited to be here.”

Brantley expects Holley to help on the defense this year.

“He’s strong,” Brantley said. “He obviously lost weight but he is still strong up top. He can hold the point inside. He has good lean and can dip sometimes. Pretty much what you saw inside, he’s explosive, it’s pretty much the same outside.”

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