Duke draws inspiration from injured WR’s fight
For hospitalized Duke receiver Blair Holliday, every incremental
step toward a normal life represents a victory. For himself, and
for the Blue Devils football team.
Holliday suffered severe head injuries during a serious
watercraft accident over the summer.
Now the Blue Devils are drawing a season’s worth of inspiration
from him exchanging fist-bumps with concerned teammates. Talking to
his coaches by phone for the first time since the accident. Taking
his first steps on his own. And now, a quicker-than-expected
progression toward outpatient care.
”Perseverance more than anything else – knowing what he’s been
through and what he’s seen, that he’s pushing right along through
it and he’s getting better every day,” left tackle Takoby Cofield
said Tuesday. ”It’s just showing you it takes a special person to
be him, and it takes a special person to do what he’s done, and it
shows that it’s something within all of us and we can accomplish
Holliday has been hospitalized since the accident nearly two
months ago, when he and teammate Jamison Crowder were riding jet
skis on a lake in central North Carolina and they collided.
Holliday was airlifted to a local hospital and was in critical
condition at UNC Hospitals before he was transferred in early
August to the acquired brain injury unit at the Shepherd Center in
Coach David Cutcliffe said he and some staff members are flying
to Atlanta Wednesday for their first visit since his transfer.
Three days later, Duke opens the season against Florida
International in what likely would have been the first career start
for the sophomore from Sherman Oaks, Calif.
So in the locker room beforehand, Cutcliffe vows not to waste
his breath on any win-one-for-the-Gipper speeches.
That would only trivialize Holliday’s plight.
”It’s kind of different than that. This is more important,”
Cutcliffe said. ”Blair’s more important than just kind of rallying
the emotions of a game to them. This is a serious consequence and a
serious circumstance, so he’s in their mind all the time. No
question. So I couldn’t use the term `rally’ because he’s always
Just as Holliday remains on the players’ minds, his number will
be on their helmets.
Duke has placed stickers bearing his jersey No. 8 on the backs
of everyone’s helmets as a reminder.
”He can’t be here with us exactly, but we’ve got him here at
the same time and we know he’s going to be watching and see us,”
Cofield said. ”Just represent him, because he can’t be here with
Holliday’s progress has been steady. Shortly before his transfer
to Atlanta, he recovered well enough to exchange fist-bumps with
teammates, nod when he was asked questions and smile in recognition
of his father’s voice. After the move, and on the second day of
preseason practice, Holliday spoke to Cutcliffe and his staff by
phone for the first time.
Last week, Cutcliffe said Holliday was walking on his own. The
coach added Tuesday that Holliday is preparing to move to an
Running back Josh Snead said he and some teammates had a recent
chat with Holliday via webcam and ”he sounds almost normal.”
”We just want Blair to be able to be healthy, to walk and talk
and be able to do things on his own,” Snead said. ”That’s all we
want. If he’s able to come back and play football, that is great.
But as his teammates and his brothers, we want him to be able to
function as normally as possible.”
On the Net: http://www.blairholliday.org