Thomas Holley had never even stepped on a football field a little over a year ago and on Tuesday he was officially presented with an All-American jersey during a presentation in Lincoln High School’s gym that was packed with Holley’s friends, family, teammates and coaches on Tuesday.
“I would have never guessed I’d be here in a million years, coming from being one of the top basketball players in the country, now switching to football and being one of the top football players in the country,” Holley told Justin Tasch of the NY Daily News. “To have the best of both worlds and be able to be at the top level of both, not many people can say that.”
This caps a journey that began at Christ the King High School in Queens where Holley used to play basketball. He transferred to Lincoln at the start of last season with the goal of continuing his basketball career. The problem was that Holley, a center, stopped growing at 6-foot-4 which hurt the prospects of his once promising b-ball career.
Even though Holley wasn’t as tall as he’d hoped, he was still huge, at nearly 300-pounds, and was athletic from years of playing basketball. So his head coach Dwayne ‘Tiny’ Morton suggested that he play football instead.
“Coach Tiny told me, ‘Yo Thomas you are huge, why are you playing basketball? You should be playing football,’” Holley told the Brooklyn Eagle a couple of weeks ago. “I told him I’m a basketball player because that’s when I was still nationally ranked for basketball So after I transferred from Christ the King to Lincoln, coach was like, ‘Thomas do you want to play football?’ I said yeah so he called coach O’Connor and said, ‘Yo, I got a kid for you.’
“When I got to school the first day coach (Shawn) O’Connor came and found me, asked me who I was, and asked me if I wanted to play football. So I filled out some paperwork and that’s how we got here.”
It’s a crazy story because of how fast Holley was able to ascend the rankings as a football player. It’s also crazy because at one point, when they were in the seventh and eighth grades, Holley was actually ranked higher in basketball than his good friend Isaiah Whitehead. And all of this almost never happened if his mother had her way.
“I have to credit Thomas for his persistence, because I was very much against him playing football,” Candace Holley told Tasch. “He kept saying, ‘Mom, please let me try.’ And finally I had to step back and take my own personal feelings out. I didn’t want to block a potential blessing for him.”
Perhaps things fell the way they did for a reason. For one thing, the late success in football has left Holley incredibly humble with an attitude that says he’s just happy to be here. Ask him about basketball though and he’ll start trash talking a little bit though.
Either way, Holley’s future is in football. What his next step will be is still up in the air though. He recently took official visits to Penn State and Ohio State with a trip to Florida planned for the future and one to Notre Dame, where his friend Jay Hayes committed to, is also in the works. Holley hopes to have committed by the time of the All-American game on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014.
“All the time we was down (at Ohio), (Curtis Samuel) was like ‘Thomas you got to come to Ohio State so we can run things. Two Brooklyn players sticking together’,” Holley told Elio Velez of MSG Varsity. “Jay Hayes has been trying to convince me to go Notre Dame. He was like come with me and we’ll be wrecking havoc on the line together.”