Grant Holloway is one of the nation's fastest wide receivers, having clocked a 4.32-second 40-yard dash. He's rated as a three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite. And he was pursued by a bunch of schools, most notably Florida, Georgia, and Virginia Tech.
But on Thursday, Holloway committed to the Gators — to run track.
That's the story as reported by Adam Friedman of Rivals, and buttressed by this rather loud confirmation from Mike Wheeler, of Inside the Gators.
Though he is listed as a Rivals250 football prospect, athlete Grant Holloway committed to Florida today to RUN TRACK, WILL SIGN WITH TRACK.— Mark Wheeler (@InsideTheGators) November 19, 2015
It's actually slightly more likely that Holloway will jump, rather than run, for Mike Holloway (no relation) and the Gators. He's primarily a long jumper, and jumped 25 feet, 8.25 inches in a meet earlier this year — this year's best jump by a high schooler, and a mark that would tie him for 55th in the world in 2015 — and has clearly seen Florida's vaunted recent history of minting elite jumpers under Holloway and jumps coach Nic Petersen and started dreaming of Olympic rings.
"The main reason I picked the Gators was because they're going to help me reach my Olympic dream as well as give me a shot to play college football," Holloway said. "I hope to have fun as well as get ready for the next level in football and track. My Olympic dream is to make it to 2016, 2020 or 2024 and win gold. Under the coaching of coach Holloway and Nic Petersen, the jumps coach, I believe I can get there."
Holloway "committing" to Florida doesn't really explain why Petersen retweeted a mention of his commitment — which would be an NCAA violation unless Holloway signed a National Letter of Intent pledging his commitment to the Gators, and sent it in at some point over the last week, during the fall signing period. Given that I don't think Petersen's in the business of getting dinged for secondary NCAA violations over retweets, it seems likely that Holloway did sign an NLI, and simply hasn't been announced as a signee by Florida yet.
And Holloway signing with track, rather than committing to play football at Florida, means that he's going to begin as a preferred walk-on with the football team. But that doesn't mean Jim McElwain found a clever way to circumvent NCAA rules: As soon as Holloway participates in a football game, he would count against the Gators' scholarship totals in both football and track, though he could only count against the 85-scholarship limit in football.
The relevant NCAA by-laws:
188.8.131.52 Football. [FBS/FCS] In football, a counter who was recruited (per Bylaw 15.02.8) and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who participates (practices or competes) in football and one or more sports (including basketball) shall be counted in football. A counter who was not recruited (per Bylaw 15.02.8) and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who competes in football and one or more sports (including basketball) shall be counted in football.
184.108.40.206.1 Initial Counter. [FBS/FCS] A counter who previously has not been counted in football shall be considered an initial counter even though the student-athlete already has received countable financial aid in another sport
Here's how multi-sport eligibility is considered.
220.127.116.11.1 Requirement to Qualify as Multisport Athlete. To be considered a multisport athlete under this section, an individual must meet all of the following requirements:
(a) The individual shall report and participate fully in regularly organized practice with each squad;
(b) The individual shall participate where qualified in actual competition in each sport;
(c) The individual shall be a member of each squad for the entire playing and practice season; and
(d) If a recruited student-athlete (per Bylaw 15.02.8), the individual shall have been earnestly recruited to participate in the sport in which financial aid is counted (the institution recruiting the student-athlete shall have a reasonable basis to believe that the student-athlete is capable of participating in the institution's varsity intercollegiate program in that sport, including documentation of a record of previous participation in organized competition in the sport that supports the student-athlete's potential to participate in that sport in varsity intercollegiate competition).
Now, Holloway is undeniably a good football player. His junior highlights show him doing wide receiver things at top speeds high schoolers can't match, with effortless quickness to get him up to speed in a blink.
And he's listed at anywhere from 6'2" to 6'4", so he would be the sort of tall, long-striding receiver Florida doesn't really have in its offense at the moment. (Whether you think the Gators have that player on their roster depends on your opinions of Ahmad Fulwood and Kalif Jackson.)
But a high school track star who is cocky and/or delusional enough to consider the 2016 Olympics as a goal in November 2015, when they're just nine months away, is probably the sort of athlete who considers the Olympics an ultimate goal — which, to be clear, is totally fine, and a boon to Florida's track program. If Holloway wants to be part of both programs, that's fine, too — and high jumper Jhonny Victory already is, having walked on to the basketball team this summer.
And while I'll forever be skeptical about Florida athletes competing in multiple sports at a high enough level to meaningfully contribute to both teams until it happens, Jeff Demps was a Gator, and Taylor Burke was a Gator, and, maybe most impressively, Pam Begic was (and is) a Gator, so there's a history of such contributions.
Here's hoping Holloway can wear two pairs of cleats.