Patrick Finley: Holliday picks real world over gridiron

2013-01-24T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:33:47Z Patrick Finley: Holliday picks real world over gridironPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

J.J. Holliday bought his first home, with the help of his mom, as a college junior. He called it an investment.

He wants to buy another, this time on his own, in the next five years. He'll rent it out for a while, and then sell it for a tidy profit.

Holliday has lofty goals.

Football isn't one of them anymore.

And isn't that awesome?

In a world littered with athletes who don't know when, or how, to move on, the former Santa Rita High School star has a plan.

He's decided to skip his final season at Arizona State.

Rather than run out on the field in front of thousands of screaming fans in the fall, he's started a 20-hour-per-week internship at ADP.

It took him six months to score the gig with the outsourcing firm's Phoenix office. He hopes it turns into a full-time job when he graduates this spring.

Holliday figured he could do only one of the two: football or the internship.

How many 21-year-olds you know would have chosen the real world?

"Everyone (in the locker room) thinks they're going to go to the NFL," he said. "Statistics show maybe five of them are going to get the opportunity."

If that. Every year, about 2,500 FBS players run out of eligibility.

Maybe 200 rookies play in in the NFL, with some coming from FCS or NAIA or Canada.

Holliday, who likely wasn't going to be among that number even with a stellar final year, wanted to prepare for the future instead.

"When springtime rolls around and those seniors graduate, a lot of them are hanging around campus, not knowing what to do," he said. "It's kinda sad."

Holliday spent four years at Arizona State, redshirting one. He caught a grand total of one pass: a 14-yarder in the fourth quarter of a blowout win against Illinois last September.

After playing in seven games in 2010, Holliday was the second-team wideout in August 2011 when he broke his collarbone.

He couldn't practice or lift weights, and had to wait a month before he could even use the StairMaster.

He'd thought about life after football before, but now he had time to start formulating a plan.

"That's what kinda sparked it again," he said.

It's easy to forget how awesome Holliday was in high school.

The 5-foot-11, 165-pounder caught 109 passes for 2,351 yards with 30 scores his last two years at Santa Rita, helping lift the once-moribund program to the 2008 Class 4A-II title game as a senior.

At ASU, he played for three different wide receivers coaches. One, he claimed, couldn't believe Holliday even played football.

Because his size didn't pass the Airport Test, Holliday felt he needed to prove himself over and over again.

"Sometimes, when you go to a bigger school, your physical stature doesn't match up," said Jeff Scurran, who coached him at Santa Rita. "He doesn't pass the eyeball test in modern football. He just makes plays."

Holliday - whose offers mostly came from Mountain West Conference schools - has no regrets. Had he wanted to focus solely on football,he said, he would have gone to a smaller school. Instead, he chose ASU - where he carries a B average as a communications major - for both its academics and athletics.

"J.J.'s a little bit of a different cat," Scurran said. "You're talking about someone with some pretty special academic gifts."

His internship isn't sexy: it's cold-calling for sales, at least for now.

But it's the first step of his new career.

"That's why I want to jumpstart this, to get ready and get work in," he said. "In five years, I'll be 26. I want to have that second property. I'd like to invest.

"I want to be able to move up."

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