Boxing great Evander Holyfield made national headlines this week by admitting that he tried to get his son to go Notre Dame.
Elijah Holyfield, a 4-star running back from Woodward Academy, committed to UGA last Friday. His famous father is a fan of UGA, and he clarified his surprising comments about Notre Dame to the AJC.
“I’m real happy for Elijah to go to Georgia,” said Evander. “That fact of the matter is, I told him beforehand that it’s about education. I was letting him know that, ‘You know, what you need is a great education. What are you going to do from 25 to 75? You don’t get paid to play football in college. You’re getting an education. You’re getting an $250,000 education going to Notre Dame.’”
Holyfield maintains that his comments aren’t aimed to put down the academics of UGA — or any other school his son was considering. Having never attended college himself, Evander says he just wanted his son to capitalize on the best opportunities set before him.
“I understand all the things I fell short of,” Holyfield said. “Looking at my mother, she wanted me to be better than her. So, what’s wrong with my son being better than me? How does my son not become better than me if I don’t talk about the things that hurt me? I’m not judging Georgia.”
At 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds, the younger Holyfield plays with a mean streak on the football field. His physical style of play earned him 32 offers, including one from Notre Dame. Evander’s comments were surprising because Notre Dame was never considered a serious contender for Elijah. They didn’t even crack the list of five finalists.
The four-time heavyweight champion says he simply wanted his son to consider all of his options before making a decision.
“If someone said, ‘Oh, you can come here.’ OK. But if someone said, ‘Oh, this is the very best,’ why would you, when you can go to this school here? If you look at the program, this one has the better offer. OK, you’re going to go the one that’s better. I don’t want anybody to get to thinking I’m putting someone down when I barely got a 12th-grade education and my mother didn’t go to school at all.”
But Holyfield understands why his son chose the Bulldogs. The former heavyweight considers the SEC to be the toughest conference in college football.
“I understand the competitiveness of the game,” Holyfield said. “I was a boy once, too. I always wanted to prove that I was the toughest. Everyone believes the SEC is the toughest (conference), which it is the toughest. In other words, he isn’t looking for the easy route. He wants to prove that he’s the guy. He wants to play with the tougher team to say, ‘I’m tough.’”
Holyfield is part of a stellar 2016 recruiting class for the Bulldogs, one that includes 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason of Lake Stevens, Wash., 4-star defensive tackle Julian Rochester of McEachern and 4-star offensive lineman Ben Cleveland of Stephens County, among others.
But he’ll also be joining a UGA roster that includes two renowned running backs in Heisman hopeful Nick Chubb and sophomore Sony Michel — both of whom will provide a stout test for the incoming freshman for the 2016 season.
His father says his son will welcome the challenge.
“He’s a young man just like I was as a kid,” Holyfield said. “I like hard work. I didn’t like anything that wasn’t a challenge. I wanted to prove that I was tough. I realize, if I felt that way, he feels that way. He wants to prove it.”
Elijah is rated as the No. 17 overall player in the state.