Nov. 9, 2013
By Amanda Niglia, Army Athletic Communications
The following football feature appeared in Army Football Game Day on Nov. 9, 2013.
Known as the epitome of perfection to his teammates and classmates, Thomas Holloway has earned his place as a leader on and off the field at the United States Military Academy. The senior linebacker has taken on many roles since stepping onto the West Point Campus in 2010, including team co-captain and the head chair for the Student Athletic Advisory Council. While others may not have the patience and drive to take on these roles, Holloway has adapted to the responsibility with ease and is nothing more than humbled to be given the chance to lead.
From a young age, Holloway always had his eye on becoming a soldier and pursuing the same destiny has both his grandfathers. Holloway's father, Jay, is the son of Aubrey Holloway, who served as a major in the U.S. Army, while his mother, Joanne, is the daughter of Norman Lorder, an officer in the British Royal Navy.
"It didn't really kick in for a while when I was growing up," said Holloway. "Sometimes I would watch videos and movies on television and see war films of soldiers and I would ask myself, `Am I going to do that one day?' As I got older my dad would tell me more stories about his father who was in the Vietnam War and my mom would tell me more about her father who served in the British Royal Navy. At that time I realized it was something that I wanted to do, not just because I wanted to uphold their legacy, but I really enjoyed hearing about the values they upheld. I figured everything that the academy represented would be good for my life."
After vowing to become a valued member of our armed services, Holloway stuck with his decision and applied to all three academies.
"I only applied to other schools beyond the academies as back up plans, and I considered those based on ROTC opportunities as well. So if I wasn't going to go to West Point, Navy or Air Force I was going to go to a school that had that ROTC opportunity for me," said Holloway.
After making the decision to attend West Point in the fall of 2010, Holloway knew there were a few more pieces that needed to fall into place to fulfill his collegiate needs, including football.
"There was a lot of uncertainty, but I remember I had a weird feeling. At my last football game of my senior year a lot of my teammates were upset because it was their last game, and even though I had not committed anywhere at that point, I just had a feeling that I would be able to play the game again. I remember my mom came up to me following that game and she said, `You know what, Thomas, I have a feeling you are going to play again. I just know it.' Now she knows nothing about football, absolutely nothing, so I thought that was pretty powerful maybe even a work of God telling her that it was going to happen."
From that game, Holloway stuck with his decision to make football a part of his collegiate career. After sending film, reaching out to coaches and even making the trip from Birmingham, Ala., with his father to the West Point campus for the Black and Gold spring football game, playing Army football was still a long shot.
"Once I came up here for school, I ended up trying out just to see what would happen. I actually was really close to trying out for sprint football or rugby, but I went for it and it all worked out."
While Holloway wasn't recruited by the Black Knights, he tried his luck and put his skills to the test in summer tryouts. The young defensive back was one of 60 plebes trying out for a spot on the squad and through weeks of hard work and dedication, Holloway earned his place as one of 11 players who walked-on to the team.
After being placed on the B-Squad during his plebe year, Holloway saw very little action until Northern Illinois in 2011.
"I remember the first game I played in. It was the second half of our first game against Northern Illinois and it just felt like a rush of memories back from high school. I was more comfortable then I thought I originally would be, so I tried to build off that. I trusted in God and trusted in my teammates to lead me in the right direction. When I actually got to start against Tulane, I was able to show that I would be able to uphold that for the remainder of my career."
From there Holloway became an unstoppable force on and off the field. After making 24 total starts as a Black Knights defensive back in his sophomore and junior year, he proved to not only his coaches but his teammates that hard work, dedication and faith paid off. In the summer of 2013, Holloway was crowned a co-captain of the Army football team along with senior offensive linemen Michael Kime and senior defensive end Jarrett Mackey.
"The most powerful part of being captain is that it tells me that my teammates believe in me and that I can be a leader on and off the field. Just as much as much I want to have that credibility on the field and earn that basic legitimacy, I also want to make sure I am leading them in the right direction when we are not actually playing the game. I am honestly humbled and honored and there is an inherit responsibility that comes with that. It was an intense feeling of love from my teammates, and I want to do everything I can to send that right back to them and make things better for them."
Unfortunately, a right foot injury has forced Holloway to lead from the sidelines for a few games this season. However, the strength and experience of over overcoming the odds is a familiar situation, giving him and his team hope that he will return to action.
Not only is Holloway humbled by the title given to him by his teammates, he takes the title seriously and carries the voice of the team from the locker room to the field every day of the week.
"The biggest responsibility is staying true to being that one voice of the team. Sometimes with a large team, people can go off and develop different attitudes that can hinder our success. But the one thing that Coach Ellerson always preaches to us is one voice. One voice on the team that helps us prepare for the next thing and prepare for the opportunity to win. When I think about that, I think that we need to mentor these young guys and give them the opportunity to win later on."
Using that one voice and essence of brotherhood, Holloway has also been able to become a leader off the field as well. If being team captain wasn't responsibility enough, he has taken on an additional role as the chair for the Student Athletic Advisory Council. This position not only guides athletes into the right direction but helps put forth a positive representation of student athletes who attend West Point.
"First and foremost I have to be a good representative, corps-wide, of the student athletes so I can't live up to the stereotypes. I have to do what is asked of me. I have to make sure I uphold the standards for myself first-off and help correct others. I also have to be a devout student because I have to show that I buy into the values, which I absolutely do. If anything, I just have to be a voice to tell them valuable information, pass it down and just be a good liasion between the corps leadership of the cadets and the student athletes."
As both an athlete and a representative among his fellow cadets, Holloway has come a long way since being a non-recruited plebe. It is no secret that he has made an impact on both his coaches and teammates over the year thus far. When asked about the type of person Holloway is, from an insider's perspective, fellow teammate and Army football co-captain, Kime had nothing but good things to say about his classmate.
"I would describe Thomas as the epitome of what it means to be an Army football player. Nobody personifies Army Football and balancing the demands of being both a cadet and athlete better than Tom. Not only does he balance the two, but he excels in both aspects," said Kime.
"As a team leader, Tom has the admiration of the team and the coaches. I know all of the players look up to Tom as a great role model, but I also believe that the coaches have a lot respect for Thomas for everything that he has accomplished. It is very difficult to walk-on to a Division I football team and even harder to become a starter. But to become a team captain on the field, and a brigade level leadership position within the corps is truly a testament to Thomas' work ethic, drive, and character," Kime continued.
With just three games left in the football season and just over a semester left in the school year, Holloway's duties are far from done. Prior to graduation in the spring, Holloway not only has hope of leading his team to more victories on the football field, but also has taken on the responsibility of leading a legacy of results and dedication outside of Michie Stadium.
"I think that the number one thing you have to do to make this season memorable is win. It's as simple as that. If you think about success as a team and great team leadership we automatically go back to 2010 when we went to the bowl game and they were a great group of guys. Sometimes they were ruthless and that is what we needed to get the job done.
"There was compassion that they needed to bond the team. I don't want people to look back on me and just say I am a great guy, I don't care about that. I just want people to know that I did whatever it took to make this team better and that is a personal responsibility that I feel and the legacy I want to leave behind. I want to make sure we are as good as a team as possible because when we win it will help us for the rest of our lives."
Holloway's football career is coming close to the end, but his journey is far from over. After graduation, Holloways plans on relocating with fiancée Julie Moss. The couple look to start planning for their wedding while Moss plans attends graduate school.
He may have had to overcome the odds in the beginning of his career as an Army athlete, but the legacy and impact that Holloway leaves with the Army football program has not only been inspiring but a privilege to witness.