Former Louisville safety, Gerod Holliman, isn’t your ordinary seventh round draft pick. He tied the single-season interceptions record with 14, a record that stood since for over 40 years. With that comes the accolades, like first team All-American, All-ACC and being a recipient of the Jim Thorpe award, awarded to the nation’s top defensive back.
With all that comes an inflation of the ego, and rightfully so. Holliman obviously felt there was nothing more he needed to do at the collegiate level, so it was time to take his talents on to the professional level. According to one scout, Holliman was mentioned in the same sentence as former Ravens’ great, Ed Reed. However, as draft seasons do, over-analysis takes place and obviously the scouts saw a glaring weakness in his game, and that’s the art of tackling. However, for a team that only registered 11 interceptions all of last season, Holliman was a player the Pittsburgh Steelers felt they could work with.
“I don’t know how many times we said this during our draft preparations, but 14 interceptions is no accident,” Kevin Colbert said, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “This kid has great instincts and awareness. He’s a film studier and you can just see him making breaks on the ball before the quarterback throws it. This kid is a ball-hawk and knows how to make interceptions.”
At 6-feet even and 218 pounds, he possesses the size to produce punishing hits on the back end, although on some of his film, he gives up kill shots. Instead, he’ll hit and not wrap up, trying to wait for help from teammates to bring down a ball carrier. He’s heard it from all the critics, for months prior to the draft, so the news should be nothing new. Instead, Holliman has taken it in stride, instead putting not a chip, but a boulder on his shoulder to prove the doubters wrong.
“Even if I was a first-rounder I’d come in with a chip on my shoulder,” Holliman said, according to Fittipaldo. “I’m coming in to earn a spot whether I’m a first-rounder or seventh-rounder. This is something I have to do to be a good player here.”
He’s landed in a wonderful place, as defensive backs coach Carnell Lake can work with him, considering he has great ball skills. And although it’s early on in his tenure with the team, he’s also got the backs of his teammates, most notably linebacker Vince Williams. Williams recently sent Holliman a message on Twitter, and for Steelers fans, they’ll know exactly what it means.
“Here we go, I couldn’t cover, Dan couldn’t move, Beach was too small, come prove them wrong and SteelerNation will love u 4 it,” it said.
Basically what he’s doing is assuring Holliman that the nay-sayers will always be there, much like they were for himself, Daniel McCullers and Kelvin Beachum. Looked at as a pure thumper of an inside linebacker, scouts said Williams’ coverage skills were lacking. Scouts questioned if McCullers could have the adequate skills to play at the NFL level for a man his size. They wondered how Beachum’s size would hold up, and labeled him a guard. All he has done is become one of the better left tackles, league-wide.
His message is basically to not let anyone outside the Steelers organization be the ones to tell you what you’re capable of. Head coach Mike Tomlin shared similar sentiment, explaining that there is no perfect prospect, and that includes the team’s entire 2015 draft haul.
“He’s got room for improvement as a tackler, but none of these prospects are finished products,” Tomlin said, according to Fittipaldo. “He does have a distinguishing characteristic and that is his ability to anticipate and find angles to the ball and to finish those plays. That is something that you can build his game around. We are excited about that.”
Although he wasn’t a first round pick, like some speculated, Holliman is blessed and feels he wound up in a great organization. If he can put it all together, he’ll likely add his name to the list of a ever-growing one of Colbert’s late-round gems.
“God has a plan for me,” Holliman said, according to Fittipaldo. ” I ended up being in the right place, so I’m happy.”