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PROVO — The civil unrest that recently rocked Baltimore literally hit home for Guy Holliday, who grew up a few minutes from where the disturbance happened.
Like millions, the BYU receivers coach watched the protests against local police turn violent as residents set buildings on fire and looted merchandise from businesses. Moved to action, like he usually is, Holliday sent an email to co-workers to remind them to keep perspective.
Recalling the email during a radio interview with me on 97.5-FM/1280-AM, Holliday said the message was: “You can look at what’s (happening) on the outside that’s shown on the news, but for every one of those people that were rowdy or participating in looting there’s probably 10 more who are dying for just an opportunity, and I was one of those 10.”
The basic point, which could be considered trite for some, was don’t judge a group by the few. The powerful message again hits home for the biracial Holliday.
“It’s really hard when you haven’t lived in that situation,” Holliday said. “When you wake up every morning, you are what you surround yourself with. A lot of those people, particularly in my neighborhood, were surrounded with drugs, with death.”
Although not LDS, Holliday is a firm believer in all that BYU has to offer prospective players of any faith or ethnicity. He sees BYU as a place where all recruits can succeed as long as they share the university’s values, have a commitment to academics and the requisite football talent.
It's just more than the everyday rigors of life. It's about helping a young person be something that they never realized they could be. That's why you go into that neighborhood and you get a person like Guy Holliday and you bring them out and you show them a different way of life.
Holliday advocates BYU casting a wider net in recruiting, something he said coach Bronco Mendenhall has willingly embraced. During this offseason, BYU signed seven non-LDS players and brought in one transfer.
In some cases, Holliday likens it to the scripture reference of the prodigal son and leaving the 99 to bring back the one. The reward, he said, is sometimes greater.
“It’s easy to go out of 100 people to go help the 99 that are great,” he said. “It’s our jobs to go find the one that just doesn’t have the opportunity or may just be slightly off course. That’s our job. That’s what being human is about. That’s what compassion is about. That’s why you come to a place like BYU because it’s just more than just playing football.
“It’s just more than the everyday rigors of life. It’s about helping a young person be something that they never realized they could be. That’s why you go into that neighborhood and you get a person like Guy Holliday and you bring them out and you show them a different way of life.”
Preach it, brother.
Even if an incoming player turns out to be a bad fit, BYU would be wise to follow Holliday’s vision. The fact that BYU signed running back Charles West, a recruit from Texas who faces legal issues and may never enroll at BYU, does not shame the university’s mission.
In college football’s current conditions, BYU needs to venture outside its traditional recruiting base more than ever. The competition for LDS players has never been tougher.
“There used to be time when the top LDS players regardless of where they were from were coming to BYU,” Holliday said. “BYU has something special to offer the right person. We’re fighting the fight. Bronco has opened his eyes a little to spread that net."
Never shy on opinions, Holliday touched on a variety of subjects during the radio interview. They included the cost of attendance issue and on BYU taking a hit for not getting enough players selected in the NFL draft.
Holliday is impressed that BYU will pay $4,500 each academic year to scholarship athletes as part of the cost of attendance. He hasn’t mentioned it much in recruiting but believes it proves BYU is willing to invest in the athletes, who need to understand their sport won’t last forever.
“The ultimate reason why you should choose where you go to school is what university you feel most comfortable at that prepares you for when the ball stops,” Holliday said. “Because no matter who you are, the ball stops.”
The NFL issue, he said, is overrated as it relates to real life.
“So much emphasis is placed on NFL. I think we’ve totally lost course with what’s important in life,” he said.
“Somewhere along the line we have to find a common ground. We’re in the business to win games, and I’m going to bust my freaking tail to win every game, but we better realize we’re in the people business, too.”