DeVonte Holloman has dreamed of this week since he was 12 years old.
“From the first day I played football,” Holloman said of his NFL aspirations. “I thought I was pretty good when I really probably wasn’t that good starting out. It’s been a dream of mine for awhile.”
The dream will come true for Holloman and several of his South Carolina teammates when they hear their names called this weekend during the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.
Holloman, now 22, played safety and spur for South Carolina the last four years. He is projected by most to be a fourth- or fifth-round selection as an outside linebacker.
Draft analyst Josh Norris has the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Holloman as the No. 65 overall prospect in his latest rankings on Rotoworld.com and projects Holloman as a third-round pick.
“As a former safety with a natural toughness to his game, Holloman can likely project as a weak- or strong-side player,” Norris wrote for NFL.com. “He did his best work as the latter, getting upfield while staying under control. Holloman isn’t big for the position, but he sheds blockers to make tackles and is experienced in space.”
The months since South Carolina’s Outback Bowl win over Michigan have been all about training and lifting weights for Holloman.
He started by preparing for the NFL Combine and pro day in Dallas, Texas, at the Athletes’ Performance training center there. Holloman returned to South Carolina for the school’s pro day on March 27 and completed his pre-draft training in Charlotte, N.C., near his home.
It’s the longest period in quite some time that Holloman has been away from actually practicing or playing football.
“Usually around this time of the year, it’s spring football,” he said. “I’ve been basically lifting weights for the past four or five months. I’ve missed playing football and being part of a team.”
Holloman was able to return to Columbia for the spring game and to receive another ring for a second 11-win season. It wasn’t until after his USC playing days were over that he turned his attention to the pros, he said.
“I always focused on the right now,” he said. “When I was at Carolina, I was focused on what was going on at Carolina and everything I controlled there.”
Holloman grew up a Philadelphia Eagles fan rooting for such players as Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Duce Staley and Brian Dawkins.
A mock draft on NFL.com projects Holloman to the Rams in the fourth round. Another on Drafttek.com has him going to the Bengals in that same round. He has interacted with a number of NFL teams in his time at the East-West Shrine Game, the NFL Combine and USC’s pro timing day.
“You can’t make too much of it,” he said. “Talking to past guys, they got drafted by teams they never even spoke to. You never know.”
The month since USC’s pro day also has been a time for Holloman to catch up with family and friends, including celebrating with his daughter, Brooklyn, as she turned 1.
This weekend he will gather with family and close friends to celebrate a very big step in his football career.
“It’s very exciting,” Holloman said. “I can’t wait to see what happens and see where everybody ends up, all my teammates.”