Hollis' football career ends

ATHENS – Georgia football player Albert Hollis, a fan favorite despite never stepping on the field, is giving up his final year of eligibility in the sport.

Albert Hollis, who signed with Georgia out of Sacramento, Calif., in 2000, had recently been awarded a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA but has decided to concentrate instead on track in his final season, according to a statement released Thursday by the school.

Hollis was one of the jewels of the Bulldogs' 2000 signing class. He was named a Parade Magazine All-American and first team All-USA running back by USA Today after his senior season in high school, when he rushed for 2,053 yards and 31 touchdowns.

Hollis once rushed for 421 yards and six touchdowns in a single high school game, but his collegiate career never got started. After redshirting in 2000, he suffered a severe knee dislocation in spring practice the next season. Due to severe ligament and nerve damage, it would be three years and three days exactly before he was cleared for full contact work.

"I cannot express how proud I am of Albert," Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the school. "He has shown remarkable heart and perseverance over a long period of time to get himself in a position to be cleared for full activity, and, along the way, he's been a great inspiration to many others in tough injury situations."

Hollis' long battle to get back to football earned him the respect of the Bulldog Nation, and he was constantly a topic of discussion among the team's die-hard fans.

"I've been on three Bulldog Club tours since I've been here, and every club since I've been here, every single time, somebody asks about Albert," Richt said last year. "It's good, people care."

After participating in spring practice last year and gaining 11 yards on four carries in the annual spring G-Day game, Hollis was moved to defensive back during the fall, but he never got into a game. Richt said in November that he thought about putting Hollis in during a 62-17 win over Kentucky and added at the time that he would try to get him on the field before the end of the season.

Hollis indicated there were no hard feelings for his lack of game participation.

"I'm really thankful that Coach Richt has allowed me to run track and keep my football scholarship," he said in the school's statement. "My football career at Georgia never really panned out, but I'm still happy with my decision to come to Georgia. I can't really help the fact that I had my injuries, but I'm thankful to the Bulldog Nation for supporting me. I know this year I'll be able to run and compete with the track team, and I'm excited to see what I can do with a full year of practice and training."

Hollis was a track standout in high school, where he posted a 10.43 time in the 100-meter dash. At the time, that was the eighth-best time in the nation for a prep athlete. In 2001, he posted the fourth-best 60-meter dash time (6.8 seconds) in UGA history before suffering his knee injury.

"We're thankful that he can still participate successfully in track, and we will follow his progress closely," Richt said.

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