WASHINGTON — Josh Holsey was finished with football.
Twice, the Redskins rookie cornerback tore his left anterior cruciate ligament while playing college football at Auburn. After the second tear, early in the 2015 season, Holsey knew the work needed to return to the field and wasn’t sure he had it in him.
“A lot of people don’t know this, I had told myself that I wasn’t going to play football anymore at one point after I tore it the second time,” Holsey said. “Because I wanted to be able to run around with my kids. I was looking for the future, not the present. But once I told myself I was gonna come back and I was gonna play, I was in rehab three times a day.”
That meant no spring break last year, no partying. Holsey wanted to be back on the field in time for training camp in August. He made it – but it took some heart-to-heart conversations with his parents, Johnathan and Marilyn, and former Auburn defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, now the defensive coordinator at South Carolina, who cautioned Holsey about giving up the game too soon.
“[Robinson] said ‘If you feel like you have anything left in the tank you should give it another shot because once you walk away from the game it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do,’” Holsey said at Redskins rookie minicamp last Saturday. “I’m here.”
Holsey, 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, was the second of Washington’s seventh-round draft picks, No. 235 overall. He started 31 games over five years at Auburn, including the first six games of 2013 at safety before his first ACL tear.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said in the weeks before the draft that Holsey would likely be taken low, but have a legitimate chance to be a solid NFL contributor. The knee injuries dropped him a few rounds lower than his performance dictated after three interceptions and 10 pass breakups as a redshirt senior, but his selection justified the decision to stick with rehab and continue his football career. After five years on a SEC roster, Holsey believes he belongs in the NFL.
“Watching him move around, it doesn’t look like he was hurt at all,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “[Holsey is] really quick in and out of breaks. He’s a competitor, you can see that. He likes to talk a little bit, as do I, so it’s a good match. We have a lot of fun with him. I think he’s going to be a good candidate for this football team.”
Holsey had a solid showing at rookie minicamp playing cornerback on the outside – though Gruden chided him for a missed interception chance. But he also knows when the veterans arrive for organized team activities (OTAs) next week, he’s likely to shift inside to nickel corner. Special teams will also play a big role in Holsey’s fight to make the 53-man roster. He’s also looking forward to picking the brain of cornerback Josh Norman and the Redskins other veterans.
“I’m going to be in their back pocket. Everywhere they go, I go. Whatever they eat, I eat. Whenever they sleep, I sleep,” Holsey joked. “They in the league for a long time so I want to know what they’re doing to stay in the league that long. I’m going to mess with them a lot. Hopefully, they’re ready for it.”
Of course, Holsey and his family have endured far worse than just a few knee injuries. His dad, Johnathan, had the lower part of his left leg amputated after being injured by an I.E.D while serving in Iraq in 2004. Josh Holsey watched as his dad learned to walk and run again with a prosthetic leg. He even taught himself to ski. That determination runs in the family.
“With what I went through a lot of people don’t think you can make it out of that situation,” Holsey said. “I’m just a walking testimony for anybody that no matter what you go through, you keep fighting and you can get to whatever your dreams is.”
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