You can get a little insight into a player through finding out which athletes he liked as a kid. As strange as it was to find out Paxton Lynch liked Rocky Bleier, Deon Hollins, Jr.’s love of Peyton Manning is even odder.
Why would a kid who grew up in Texas playing running back and defensive end, look up to a quarterback? His mind. As young as five years old playing Mitey-Mite football, little Deon recognized and appreciated his “cerebral approach to football”.
As he got a little older, he added a defensive player to his admiration list: Dwight Freeney. Hollins appreciated Freeney because he was an undersized defensive end who was a pass rush nightmare.
A cerebral quarterback and an undersized guy who proved the doubters wrong. Qualities describing both Manning and Freeney, but also Hollins, Jr. The avid reader, finance major and All-American loves to learn, and has the same approach to football: study the game, work hard and show the naysayers their error in perspective.
When he had to give up the number ’18’, the number he’s worn since a tot, he chose 8 to still honor his guy. In college, he added the 5 after his new role model: Von Miller, a fellow Texan he’s been compared to. Both share a quickness off the ball, one reason that Deon’s nickname is ‘Ferrari D.’ Hollins is sleek, fast and carries a punch. For 17 years Deon has worn an eight on his jersey in honor of his hero, and now that time may end. What better place than where the number 18 is revered?
Frank Tripucka, the first to wear it in Denver, gave permission for his retired number to be worn by Peyton Manning. Just like there will be no ceremony for Manning hanging up an already retired number, Hollins, Jr. will have no fanfare putting away his beloved 18, 8 and 58.
If he’s labeled as an DL, he can choose either 68 or 78, both numbers are unused. If Jared Crick is cut, he could take the 93 after Dwight Freeney. As a linebacker, he’ll need a new number unless Shaq Barrett #48 is cut. Depending on the package being run, Hollins could be used in either role.
How fitting for Hollins, Jr. to be signed to a place where both Manning and Miller have played? Want another tie-in? UCLA played Memphis. Any guess on who Deon tried to sack all game?
He never did, but he did get one hit. According to his father, Ferarri D said Lynch was one big guy and he bounced right back up like nothing happened. He said Lynch got rid of the ball so quickly, he just never had a chance at a sack.
He’s now getting a second chance. When Chad Kelly faced off against DeMarcus Walker, he didn’t fare as well. Both QBs are most likely happy these defensive guys are now on their team. So is Devontae Booker.
The fact Deon has made it to the NFL at all, is against the odds. Born when his father was a freshman in high school, he could have ended up another statistic; the product of teen pregnancy ending in death or ignored by the father.
In Hollins Jr’s case, his father was involved the whole time. While his dad played running back at Jack Yates High School, little Deon grew up on the sidelines. Watching, learning, absorbing.
Deon Sr. wanted his son to play RB, too. He got half his wish. After seeing his son cry because he missed a tackle, he knew his true calling was on the other side of the ball. While Jr. continued to play RB until high school, his real passion is defense.
This kid loves to block. Will repeat, he LOVES TO BLOCK. If he was born into another life, one where he weighed fifty pounds more, he’d be an offensive tackle.
Speaking of weight, packing on 25 more pounds will be a priority for him, to achieve that goal, he has plans to stay in Denver and work dillingently with Luke Richesson and his staff. Based on his frame and age of 22, it’s achievable.
Why pick Deon to write about? Because he has a strong chance to make the roster. Based on Todd Davis’s less than optimal season, Brandon Marshall’s medical concerns and the fact there is little depth at middle linebacker, he has a good shot. Learning behind BMarsh is most likely, because of Hollins’ desire to hit and his speed off the ball was one of the best in the NCAA. Not to mention, while he is smaller than an NFL DE, in some packages he could be used as one, or in the event injuries mount on the Broncos’ line.
Hollins and his best friend, Jaguars’ linebacker, Myles Jack, won’t be tackling either Lynch or Booker in any games (AFCW won’t play AFCS for five more years), but they still achieved their dream of making it to the NFL.
With a long list of accolades since high school, why did he go undrafted? One could guess it was a combo of the changes at UCLA. He chose the Bruins’ 3-4 defense and then linebacker coach, Jeff Ulbrich. However, two different coaches and scheme changes later, stunted Hollins’ promise. Nothing kills a rising star more than scheme and coaching changes for the worse. In addition, coaches had learned to double and triple cover him. This limited his production.
Had he entered the draft after his junior season, Hollins would’ve been taken elsewhere. Hollins, even while being double covered still managed to be 2nd Team All-Conference. That had scouts drooling.
However, as his father says, it was meant to be for him to land in the place his favorite QB played. Not to mention, where the player he’s been compared to, plays. He was meant to face off in practices against the QB and RB he once hit. Life is funny like that. Garth Brooks sang about unanswered prayers, this may be Ferrari D’s.
Watch #8 in action and listen for the announcer comparing him to Von Miller.
Will his dream be achieved? Will an Orange #?8 Hollins jersey be for sale? Time will tell, but if this kid can pack on some pounds and keep his speed, his chances aren’t bad. Denver has a history of promoting underdogs. Just ask another ‘Jr’, Chris Harris.