Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
- UNLV's complete 2010 football schedule unveiled (03-29-2010)
- UNLV defense comes out hitting in spring scrimmage (03-27-2010)
- Assistant coach already has good feel for UNLV program (03-21-2010)
- Channing Trotter excited about Hauck's offensive approach (03-18-2010)
- UNLV spring practice begins under Hauck's watchful eye (03-16-2010)
It was only one play. One tackle.
But for Nate Holloway, the UNLV freshman defensive lineman whose journey to Division I football included stops at four high schools in three states, his efforts last Friday at the end of a spring-practice scrimmage were much more than a simple tackle.
It showed a glimpse of potential from a player who could receive significant playing time as a true freshman next fall.
On the final play of the intrasquad scrimmage, and with Holloway's team needing a stop on a fourth-and-inches scenario, teammates on the sideline starting shouting words of encouragement to the 6-foot-3, 370-pound defensive tackle from Spring Valley High in Las Vegas.
Holloway didn't disappoint, breaking through the offensive line and making the stop behind the line of scrimmage. He was immediately mobbed by teammates in celebration.
Holloway, however, was celebrating more than a scrimmage-ending tackle. He was celebrating the fact that he still is involved in the sport he loves.
No matter where Holloway lived or what school he attended, his mind always was in one place — on the football field. Excelling at the next level, especially when you consider his trials and tribulations, is a dream come true.
Like most freshmen in their first practices at the next level, Holloway has struggled adjusting. But it beats the alternative of not playing.
"This is a major leap coming from high school," Holloway said. "Every second of every day, there is no quit. You have to bust your butt on every play."
Holloway was an All-Sunset Region selection on both sides of the line in 2008 for Spring Valley, but flew under the radar with recruiters partially because he wasn't established at one school.
Holloway played for programs in Washington state, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, including suiting up for schools in two separate states as a junior.
He enrolled at Cheyenne High in North Las Vegas a month into his junior year and eventually played in the playoffs for the Desert Shields. But, before it was time for his senior season, his family moved across town and he finished at Spring Valley.
Holloway committed to former UNLV coach Mike Sanford, but was forced to gray-shirt — not enroll until January 2010 — because his academics weren't in order because of the moving.
He didn't receive word that he would be eligible to enroll at UNLV until December, after a process where transcripts from four schools had to be gathered and evaluated.
It was a grueling process that Holloway admits struggling through. At one point, he said it appeared his chances of playing for UNLV where slim — a realization that he said led to depression.
Holloway stopped working out and began eating. He weight ballooned from 340 pounds to more than 400.
"Anything that crossed my face I would eat," he said half-jokingly.
Fast forward to this spring.
More than halfway through the 15 workout spring practice, Holloway is listed at No. 2 on the depth chart at defensive tackle. The days of uncertainty are now a distant memory.
"I was so excited when I got the call (saying he was eligible)," Holloway said. "I was close to having tears in my eyes I was so happy."
He has lost roughly 30 pounds since enrolling in mid-January and follows a strict cardio training regime. He still is a work in progress, but his potential — as shown this spring — is unlimited.
"He is a very willing guy," said Kraig Paulson, UNLV's defensive coordinator. "He's done a good job trying to get into playing shape. He recognizes what he needs to do to help us."
In the scrimmage, that help came in the form of a stop behind the line.
"Making that tackle really made a difference in my life," Holloway said. "It helps give me confidence that I can play with the guys at this level."
UNLV is off this week for spring break. It resumes practices Monday. The spring game is at noon April 17 at Sam Boyd Stadium.