One of the reasons I love to follow college football is to root for the pageantry, the traditions, the underdogs, and the stories behind the scene.
Everyone knows the story of Mardy Gilyard, a two-star prospect out of Florida that was kicked off the team, worked odd jobs, lived in his car for a year, and eventually earned the trust of Coach Kelly to get his roster spot back. Gilyard worked a construction job, as a cook, delivering pizzas, and selling cutlery door to door simultaneously to repay his student loan debt of $10,000.00 during his year away from the team.
He actually played cornerback as a freshman at UC before amassing 204 receptions, 3,003 total yards, and 25 touchdowns. Gilyard put the town of Cincinnati on his back during his junior and senior years, led the team to two BCS games, and a 12-0 regular season before going onto the NFL and CFL.
Another interesting and inspiring story belongs to junior college transfer and a fellow wide receiver, #3 Johnny Holton. Widely known as the fastest and most explosive player on the team, Holton had a very humble upbringing. The Miami, Florida native worked at a grocery store during his high school years instead of playing sports to assist his mother in raising and taking care of 10 siblings in the household.
He was actually “discovered” playing a flag football game in high school by a fellow student who also enrolled at the College of DuPage in Illinois to play junior college ball. In two seasons at DuPage he racked-up 40 receptions for 837 yards and 15 touchdowns. His 4.34 40-yard dash also caught the attention of coach Tuberville’s staff bringing him to Cincinnati.
After arriving in Clifton, Holton was met with yet another obstacle. The NCAA did not count one of his grades, forcing him to the sideline his first year. Not only could Holton not play, but in typical NCAA fashion, he could not practice, work out, or associate with the team last year. What did Holton do? He stayed in Clifton, retook the class, and got a job at Buffalo Wild Wings cooking wings in the back.
This year Holton’s presence has been felt on the field, both on offense and special teams. Thus far, #3 has accumulated 13 receptions for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He also nearly had a kick return for a touchdown against Miami before a flag eliminated that statistic.
I am certainly looking forward to seeing what else Johnny Holton can do this year and next for the Bearcats. He also has a legitimate shot at the NFL after his time as a Bearcat. A story like this is why we set aside Saturdays in the fall, why our arms tingle at the thought of the first Saturday in September, why we yell, kick, and scream for our teams, and why the game of college football means so much to so many of us.
By Technical Writer: Andy Smith