When opponents got in the ring with four-time heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, they knew they were going to be put through the nine circles of Dante’s Inferno.
Now, it is young Elijah Holyfield that is putting the fear of hell into the opposition. The four-star running back from College Park (Ga.) Woodward Academy has been a nightmare for defenses, rushing for over 1,700 yards yards and 25 touchdowns last season as a junior. He put forth efforts like his season-opening seven-touchdown performance that included taking the opening kickoff back 84 yards for a touchdown.
Like his father’s constant barrage of blows, Elijah Holyfield’s feet are constantly pattering the ground, allowing him quick change of direction and maneuverability. And is there any doubt that he hits hard? Despite being 5-foot-11, 189 pounds, Holyfield attacks defenses like he’s a bruising 240-pound fullback with the ball in his hands
It’s that combination of skills that have made Holyfield a Scout 300 member and caught the eye of the USC coaching staff. After speaking with running backs coach Johnny Nansen previously, Holyfield said he hadn’t heard a peep from USC in a while. That was until the Trojans extended a scholarship offer at the end of last week.
“I was real excited from being a little kid and watching USC, watching Reggie Bush in the glory days back then. I’ve watched them and I’ve known about them for a while,” Holyfield said. “As I got older, I started leaning toward the SEC schools once I started getting offers. But by [USC] offering me, it really draws the interest back in.”
Though he has been out west to California Berkeley last summer, Holyfield hasn’t been to Los Angeles for a visit. He and his mother are hoping to change that this spring or summer.
“My mom really likes it out there. She’s been out there a couple of times and we’re for sure going to take a visit,” he said. “My mom already started looking to buy a ticket in advance.”
When the trip occurs will all depend on his availability with both schoolwork and football training, but it’s more than just discovering a new city and region of the country. Holyfield has genuine interest in the Trojans.
While he said he’s not necessarily a “big stay-at-home person,” most of the schools that hold Holyfield’s interest have been in the Southern region. But there are always a couple of outliers to any lengthy list.
“I have like two or three schools that I’m seriously looking at outside the SEC and USC is one of them,” Holyfield said. “Most of the other schools I feel like I can get the same thing by going to a school in the SEC and staying closer to home, but I feel like USC, Notre Dame and Michigan have something else to offer that these other schools don’t have.”
If Holyfield were to leave the comforts of being close to home and attend USC, he’ll at least have an ally. Former Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern offensive lineman Chuma Edoga is a player Holyfield said he has met at a couple of camps and got along with. While they aren’t best friends, Holyfield said it’s good to have at least one familiar face already here.
He’ll try to get to know the rest of the Trojan roster by watching on television this year.
“I watched a little bit of USC this year, but I didn’t watch as much as I would have liked to have for a school that I’m thinking about going to. So this year, I’ll definitely watch a lot more of them.”
When he has watched the cardinal and gold on television previously, he paid close attention to how Buck Allen was used by the Trojans to do more than just carry the ball.
“They like a [running] back that can do a lot of things like me,” said Holyfield, who had three kick return touchdowns and 27 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns last year. “That’s why they think I could be a really big help to the program.”
“[Nansen] said he was looking for great players and that I was one of them. I got to talk to him and I got to talk to Coach Sarkisian and [Sarkisian] offered me.”
Holyfield said he’ll likely cut his list of potential schools down to 10 after the spring, so he’s better able to focus his attention on those schools. By the end of the summer, his goal is to whittle that down to five teams before his senior season at Woodward Academy. Holyfield said he’ll take it from there after the season because he wants to focus on trying to win a state championship, but admitted he might take an official visit or two possibly during the open weeks in his high school schedule.
Along with Evander's favorite, Georgia, Auburn also figures to play a big factor in Elijah's recruitment. His older brother, Evander Jr., participated in track & field at Auburn and attempted to walk on to the football team.
Check out these Elijah Holyfield highlights from his junior season: