Sentell’s Intel: An unforgettable story defines the character of a major UGA recruiting target
Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
When the aim is to write about people, one of the first tasks is to identify story arcs.
That’s a schmancy-fancy way of describing important stuff. That would be those moments in life which reveal matters of substance. Or maybe even the lack thereof.
Jeremiah “J.J.” Holloman has a few of those. The 4-star receiver is Georgia’s best hope in the 2017 class to fill a desperate need for an explosive receiver who can take the top off any defense.
Holloman repeatedly showed that when he played for Cam Newton’s 7-on-7 team this summer. That required a tryout, drills and an extensive time commitment with weekly practices. The program used a draft to fill the rosters for multiple teams. The reigning NFL MVP served as the offensive coordinator for the elite team.
Newton naturally had the first pick for his offense. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner chose Holloman. The 6-foot-2 rising senior had the size, speed and that vogue “catch radius” term analysts and scouts drop when they want to sound fancy-schmancy, too.
The Newton High (Covington, Ga.) star also tested as one of the five most explosive athletes (via the SPARQ rating) at Nike’s all-star “The Opening” summer showcase.
Those measures show the senior’s worth as well as his status as the nation’s No. 18 receiver and No. 131 overall prospect. He’s also won back-to-back state Class AAAAAA triple jump championships.
Holloman’s physical gifts are vast, but those aren’t the only reasons why DawgNation should want him in red and black.
It goes back to his sophomore year. He wasn’t going to catch every ball then even if somebody glued velcro tabs to his fingers.
A pinned tweet
Holloman keeps a tweet pinned on his Twitter timeline. That’s a social media view of an old concept: Judge books by their covers.
A year ago today I had 0 offers. Stay humble and on your grind ?? don't let nobody take anything from you ?
— Jeremiah Holloman (@Obey_Classics) April 11, 2016
That tweet — authored on April 10, 2016 — shows great perspective for a kid who is still only two days past his 18th birthday.
It takes Holloman back to April of 2015. He was on the cusp of flying nearly 48 feet to win his first Georgia state championship in the triple jump. None of the big boys wanted him then. They all do now.
He was once committed to Michigan and spends time on the phone every day talking to Tennessee coach Butch Jones. Miami and Oregon are major players in his recruiting. Auburn would park the Gus bus for a stakeout to land him. He’s already taken an official visit to Notre Dame.
That tweet — plus a story from his sophomore season — are necessary to understand where his head is right now. There are only seven uncommitted receivers in the nation that are rated higher than Holloman.
But he couldn’t catch a cold three years ago. And it was his own fault.
The most unselfish big-time receiver in America?
Receivers are usually attention magnets. They want multiple targets per series. Holloman definitely wants the ball, but he also might be the most humble big-time receiver in America.
It is generally hazardous to throw out that type of label, but it serves in this instance. His mother, who often calls him by his “J.J” nickname, shared why.
“He is the most humble kid and most unselfish kid for him to have the status he has,” Oneida Holloman said. “It amazes me and it all goes back to something I remember during his freshman and his sophomore year.”
Give me the dang ball? It was more like Hollomon didn’t want the ball. Not yet.
He didn’t start as a freshman or a sophomore. It was interesting because the coaches at Newton immediately took to him.
Holloman was big. He could also fly down the field and yet he could not crack the starting lineup.
“I asked his coaches during his sophomore year why he wasn’t starting yet,” Oneida Holloman said. “They told me it was because J.J. didn’t really go hard in practice. I asked what was going on and they said he was dropping passes.”
His mother didn’t like the sound of that. She wanted to find out why.
“He said there was another receiver on the team at that time who was a senior,” his mother said. “My son told me that he probably doesn’t have the same opportunities that he was going to have. Jeremiah told me he looked at it that he has two years to get noticed by the colleges. But this is it for him. He told me ‘I’ll drop passes in practice so he can play.’ Jeremiah looked at it that if that senior got the chance to start, then he could make plays and get seen more by colleges than if he was (already) in there.”
That teammate wound up going to a junior college and made his way to a four-year school. That story will shock anyone who follows the path of big-time recruits to college football. That simply does not happen.
“That really stunned me when he told me that,” Oneida Holloman said. “I was like ‘Wow. This is bigger than just dropping passes in practice right here.’ It spoke volumes. It showed us that everything we had instilled in him from being a team player and putting others first had been heard.”
That attitude would likely not be welcomed at any other point in his career other than at just that time.
“The competitive part of me was like ‘You don’t drop passes in practice kid’ but then the Godly part of me was like this kid was doing something he would be blessed for later in life. (The college attention) was late for him, but what God had for him eventually showed up.”
Holloman’s offers came later than most. He was a rising junior who had received very little love from big-time college football. That’s what that tweet referred to. But it was on the horizon.
“I just felt that was a chance for me to do the right thing there,” Jeremiah Holloman said. “I believed in myself and what God had in store for me. My time was coming. I knew that.”
His faith is clearly important to him. That has been the case for quite some time.
“We’d always be looking around wondering where J.J. was all the time growing up,” Oneida Holloman said. “He was always in his room praying. He was always just that kid who would always be doing that growing up. You know that like the good word says ‘Raise a child in the way you want them to go and when they grow old they won’t depart from it’ and he’s kind of always been that way.”
Put God first. He was raised to lower his head before a test.
“We’ve told him if you seek God first then he will give you every single thing that you need,” his mother said. “He has always taken that message and ran with it. It has always worked out for him.”
A pro-Georgia element to keep in mind
Holloman and his older brother, Lafayette “L.J.” Holloman, are a unique recruiting story in their own right. Jeremiah is set to graduate early in December and will enroll early at the school of his choice in January.
The college attention has now arrived for both brothers.
His older brother is a splendid athlete in his own right. He will follow Jeremiah next fall. The brothers should be seen as a package to the same school in 2017. All those schools at the top of Jeremiah’s list are now recruiting his older brother heavily, too.
UGA — like most schools — has offered his older brother a spot as a preferred walk-on. Most recruiters have seen the film from his last varsity season in 2014. That’s promising. They are intrigued by what he can be at the college level. He could wind up at receiver or defensive back.
His mother felt Oregon and Auburn had been recruiting L.J. at a consistently high level over the last month.
Jeremiah is convinced his brother will quickly earn a scholarship wherever he winds up because his older sibling is that talented. UGA would offer an early benefit with in-state tuition during that period when his brother proves his worth. That’s a plus.
But that is no longer the most financially attractive route to the Holloman family. Oregon has dangled a scholarship offer to both brothers. The Ducks have been recruiting L.J. the hardest over the last month.
“That’s a huge game changer,” Oneida Holloman said. “That definitely turned JJ’s head around. Because he wants to play with his brother. When you look at a school that’s willing to say we need you and we are looking at him and we need him too. When they are willing to offer both boys a scholarship, it changes the game.”
Parents faced with sending multiple children to college understand that logic. Oregon also appeals to Holloman’s track background. The Ducks are a national track power and Nike’s imprints are all over that athletic program.
Getting the chance to compete in the triple jump in college will be big for Holloman. But there is another school which has pitched that chance better than Oregon has.
“If I’m being honest here the school that has really really appealed to JJ’s track focus has been UGA,” Oneida Holloman said. “They’ve been huge in showing him he would get to do track at Georgia with no questions asked. No discussions necessary. He can be on the track team at Georgia in the spring.”
The UGA staff has told Holloman he can shuffle between football practice and track every spring. He would not run and would only compete in the field events.
That’s a big factor in this decision. Recent NFL first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd is also his first cousin. He’s also constantly weighing in about the benefits of playing for the Bulldogs.
“I think Leonard has pretty much already told him that he’s going to go to UGA,” his mother joked.
Holloman’s situation will mirror what 5-star tight end Isaac Nauta did last fall. He will enroll early and he’s not a public commitment to a preferred school. That means he has had to fill out five applications and also write essays to gain admittance to each of his top choices.
That will give him the flexibility to juggle possible destinations when he makes his final decision in December. He will compete at the U.S. Army All-American game in early January and his public decision could possibly take that long.
Georgia has clearly made Holloman a recruiting priority. A recent tweet from UGA acknowledged his birthday plus the “change the game” tagline that receivers coach James Coley preaches to his wide receivers in Athens.
— Jeremiah Holloman (@Obey_Classics) October 30, 2016
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Follow Jeff Sentell on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.