Holley Growing on Penn State

The Nittany Lions are among a host of schools showing serious interest in the New York lineman, who is a newcomer to the sport of football.

Thomas Holley was a talking man Saturday afternoon at the Lasch Building on Penn State's University Park campus. The Abraham Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) defensive tackle chatted with Nittany Lion defensive line coach Larry Johnson, strength and conditioning coordinator Craig Fitzgerald, defensive coordinator John Butler, academic advisors, and, finally, head man Bill O'Brien. And the result was an verbal scholarship offer from Penn State before he hit the highway back to The Empire State.

“I got to talk to a whole bunch of coaches and kind of went around the campus,” Holley said. “Even though it was junior day, I got some one-on-one time today, and the offer became official.”

Holley only began playing football this past fall after transferring from Christ the King in Queens, but quickly became a force in the middle of the 8-3 Railsplitters' defense. His lack of experience made his Saturday offer even more impressive in his mind.

“It was good because a lot of the guys there, from what it looked like, had played football for a while,” Holley said. “They had varsity jackets and things like that. So for them to take the guy that has the least experience, it's a good feeling. Not only does it feel like I earned it, but it shows what kind of future I have in the sport.”

That bright future will not come before the junior makes numerous visits, including planned stops at Miami, Florida, Florida State and Syracuse, in addition to a previous trip to Rutgers. But Saturday, Holley was able to take in what Penn State had to offer, and he wasn't disappointed.

“The facilities, the weight room; they had a lot of things I hadn't seen before in any weight room,” Holley explained. “I went inside the stadium, and it was amazing. It was huge. It looked big on the outside, but it was bigger on the inside. I can only imagine what it looks like with over 100,000 fans in it. And the campus itself was beautiful. It was a good visit.”

The prospect also had some one-on-one time with O'Brien, along with his position possible coach, Johnson.

“Coach O'Brien, he's a good guy. He knows what he's doing,” he said. “And if I did come here, the coach I would be working with, Coach Johnson, he's a great guy. He's focused on his players, and wants to build a relationship outside of football and stuff. Those guys stood out.”

Holley was also impressed by the depth of Penn State's academic pull, especially from an employment standpoint.

“The academics are amazing, and the networking, too,” Holley said. “That's a big thing, because football doesn't last forever. One of the former players who works there said the NFL days aren't for long, and I need to have something to fall back onto. The networking is a large part, because the alumni have different businesses and friends that could help me get an opportunity right away [after school].”

But before jobs and days of college football come, the junior first needs to pick a school. And after one day, the Nittany Lions are very much in the mix.

“Because of the sanctions, they can't really give out that many offers, but they wanted to offer me,” Holley said. “That's a very special thing, and basically said to that they really wanted me and I'm a special kid because I'm good on the field, but also off the field, too. They said they've been checking on me, and have heard nothing but positives. They said I'm a kid that is good academically and have character and a lot of potential.”

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