Thursday, September 17, 2009

San Francisco Chronicle: Finally a starter, Holley won't let concussion hold him back

Rusty Simmons

Cal fullback Brian Holley (concussion) missed his third consecutive practice Thursday, calling into question his status for Saturday's game at Minnesota. Both coach Jeff Tedford and Holley maintain that the fifth-year senior will start the No. 8 Bears' first road game. Players who are unable to participate by Thursday are often held out of Saturday action, but Holley has good reason to become an exception to that rule.  In his first four seasons, Holley didn't record a carry or a reception. After finally earning a chance to start this year, the 5-foot-10, 235-pounder has shined in the role and doesn't give any indication of waning. "Waiting for my chance was tough, but I was behind some really good fullbacks and I needed to grow as a person and as a player," said Holley, who will need to be medically cleared before playing. "I had to learn how to be grateful for my opportunities.

"Any time you work four years for something, it is gratifying and it's something you're not going to give up easily."  Sitting behind current NFL players Chris Manderino (Kansas City), Byron Storer (Tampa Bay) and Will Ta'ufo'ou (Chicago's practice squad), Holley rarely made the Cal stat sheet. He had only two special-teams tackles and three kickoff returns to show for his first four years in Berkeley. Two games into his starting term, Holley has added to his resume. He's got a bruising, 5-yard run that converted a third-down chance and extended a scoring drive, and he has 43 receiving yards on three catches - each one ending after he powered past at least one defender. "It's me wanting it more than the guy in front of me," Holley said. "I'm not that big in stature, but on 3rd-and-short or 4th-and-short, it's all about heart."

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