Every boy who steps on the football field has one dream - to hear their name called at the NFL Draft. But only a select few will have the joy of hearing their name being called.
Each player eligible in a particular draft has a unique story. Each had challenges along the way, but that motivation never fades.
Whitmer grad Nate Holley is no exception.
Holley was on track to be a three-time first team All-MAC selection. But that hope was derailed when he was arrested and charged with felony kidnapping and felonious assault in November.
Holley took his case to trial and the jury brought back a verdict of not guilty. But even that verdict cannot repair his now- tarnished image.
He lost part of his senior season and descended every NFL draft board.
“It was nerve wracking, obviously. My life was on the line. My life wasn’t in my hands anymore. It’s not a good feeling when you can’t control your life," Holley said. "Luckily, it’s in God’s hands. Two, it’s in 12 random people’s hands of a jury. Really, I just tried to stay faithful and try to stay confident in the fact that they would see the truth and that the truth would come out.”
On February 9, Holley walked out of the courthouse cleared of the most serious charges. However, Holley did plead guilty to a lesser charge and was fined $1,000. Then he was able to turn his attention back to football. But Holley could not help but reflect how his life has changed.
“It’s been hectic," Holley said. "It’s been like a movie. A movie that started off with a nightmare and I’m hoping that it ends with that happy ending that every movie seems to kind of twist and turn and end at. So, it’s been up and down. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster and I’ve tried to temper the storm as best as I could.”
But for one weekend, Holley can put those troubles behind him and have something to look forward to: hearing his name at the NFL Draft. But those past troubles may still make NFL teams weary to draft him.
“I would tell them that not only are they going to get a great football player, they’re going to get a great young man," Holley said when asked what he would tell a team considering to draft him. "A quality guy with unbelievable character. I’m looking to go there and do what I can do on the field and off the field and I pray every night that not only can I have a major impact on the field and a successful, healthy career, but also that I’m able to inspire others and help those of less fortune."
Despite all the adversity, Holley says his dream of playing on Sundays is enough to put a smile on his face and butterflies in his stomach.
“I’m excited for what’s to come," Holley said. "I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know when I’m going, but I just know I’m going at some point. Go back to doing what I know, what I love and what I’m passionate about. I’m thrilled, I can’t wait to go out there and play football.”
And at the end of the day, no matter the troubles plaguing their lives, players motivated enough to play the game always hope for the next opportunity to take the field.