Aug 31, 2013
The physicality of football has taken some hits lately as medical research dives deeper into the causes and long-term effects of concussions. But that inherent nature of the game - the power, the controlled violence - is what has always drawn Baylor senior Sam Holl to the sport.
"I was always a football fan," he recalls. "I'd wear football uniforms for Halloween and stuff like that. I started playing football when I was probably about five years old, starting with flag football. I asked my dad when I could get my pads; he said, `You don't get to play tackle yet; you're not old enough.' I started crying."
The Katy, Texas, native quickly found his place on defense, where he settled in as an all-state safety at Katy High School.
"The thing that really grabbed me about football was the physicality of it," he explains. "I like to play physical; I feel like that's one of my strongest attributes on the field."
As a senior at Katy High, Holl was named the All-Greater Houston Defensive Player of the Year by the Houston Chronicle and the No. 7 safety in the state by Dave Campbell's Texas Football. Thanks in part to Holl's leadership on defense, the Tigers won state championships twice in his four years and finished as runners-up another time.
After appearing in 11 of Baylor's 13 games as a true freshman in 2010, mostly on special teams, Holl took over a starting spot at safety the last two years. But this fall, he faces a new assignment as he moves from safety to nickelback, a position he played only briefly as a high school sophomore. Holl is trading positions with another senior, Ahmad Dixon, who moves from nickelback to safety.
"It fits their personalities a little bit better," Baylor coach Art Briles told the Waco Tribune-Herald this spring at the time of the switch. "Sam is a ferocious tackler and a great ballplayer. We think getting him close to the box will help him. Ahmad is a gifted guy who can run and who is a very dynamic player in his own right. It gives us a little more speed on the backside where we can change some coverages."
"I think it's a really good move," echoes Holl. "I'm enjoying it a lot. I think it's a really good move for our defense, because it gets everybody in the spots they need to be in. I like it because I get to be in the box more, and I get to be more physical. That's fun for me, and a strong point in my game, and I get to use it to my advantage more down at this position than I did at safety."
Briles and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett hope the move will allow the Baylor defense to continue the progress it began to show midway through the 2012 season. After allowing 43 points a game through a 3-4 start to the year, the Bears clamped down in the second half, allowing just 31 points a game as Baylor finished the year on a 5-1 run that included wins over No. 1 Kansas State, No. 23 Oklahoma State and No. 17 UCLA.
"We have to be consistent like that. We have to come together as a defense and decide that we're not going to come out sluggish; we're going to come out from the first game this year and keep that momentum going throughout the whole season. We have to understand that it all depends on us, because our offense is going to score points; it's up to us to get our offense back on the field as soon as possible so they can put up more points."
Holl is on pace to graduate in just four years with a degree in general studies. After commencement next May, he aims to head to graduate school somewhere where he can be a graduate assistant with a football program.
"I want to be a GA somewhere and coach football," he explains. "I think I'd be a good coach; I've known and played football my whole life - that's what I know. I think that's the best thing for me, to go share my knowledge and let someone else use it."