Former UNC WR Jesse Holley Wins 4th And Long; Will Try Out For Dallas Cowboys
When Jesse Holley got the phone call from a friend in the athletic department at the University of North Carolina, he thought it was a joke.
The friend told him there was a reality show in the works in which the winner would get a spot on the Cowboys’ training camp roster. He suggested Holley try out.
Holley, who played four years at North Carolina before brief stints with the Cincinnati Bengals and British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League, was working for a security monitoring company and selling cellphones. At 25, he believed his football career was over.
“I didn’t give the show much thought at first,” Holley said in an interview. “But it was a chance and the more I thought about it…”
On Monday night, Holley, a wide receiver who was a member of the Tar Heels’ 2005 national championship basketball team, was anointed the winner of Michael Irvin’s 4th and Long on Spike TV. His prize is the 80th and final roster spot when the Cowboys report to training camp in San Antonio on July 28.
Holley is listed as 6-3, 215 pounds with 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
Irvin said that in addition to his physical abilities, Holley is one of the quickest learners he has seen.
“He’d pick up things immediately,” Irvin said. “If I am a coach and I see him implement something right away, I know I have a player.”
The 10-week show opened with 12 prospects culled from a nationwide search. That roster was whittled down to three for Monday’s taped final. After weeks of telling prospects “the Cowboys can’t use you,” Irvin faced Holley, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins and defensive back Ahmaad Smith at Cowboys Stadium and rendered his verdict.
“Jesse Holley, the Cowboys can use you,” declared Irvin, who made the final call under the watchful eyes of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as well as Bill Bates and Joe Avezzano, who helped with the show.
Just before Irvin’s verdict, Jones told the three finalists, “If one of you is the ballplayer that Michael and Joe and Bill say, you’ve got a chance be here. Clear your Sunday afternoon calendar cause you are going to be spending it out here with a big star on your helmet.”
After the verdict, Jones took Holley on a tour of the Cowboys’ new locker room, mentioning that he was the first Cowboys player to see it. But the odds appear long that he will survive training camp.
Holley will be the 11th wide receiver in camp. The Cowboys likely will keep five. Veterans Roy Williams, Miles Austin, Sam Hurd and Patrick Crayton appear to be safe bets to make the team. He will have to prove himself an invaluable special teams player.
“Outside of Roy Williams, I’m not looking at a guy that is head and shoulders above Jesse,” Irvin said.
The holdover receivers might take exception to Avezzano, the former Cowboys special teams coach, who during the finale said, “Holley is a flat-out solid receiver and can be better than some of the backups the Cowboys have right now.”
Since the final taping in mid-April, Holley has worked out in North Carolina and Dallas. He has not worked out with the Cowboys.
“This is truly, truly a blessing,” Holley said. “I have been given a wonderful opportunity to resurrect part of my life I thought was over. I am really going to take advantage of it.”