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MAKING A MARK: Former college football star redefines success

Dr. Eugene Holloman's football dreams were dashed, so he set and achieved new goals. Now, the Virginia Beach native is encouraging the next generation.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Dr. Eugene Holloman was a star running back at Bayside High School and James Madison University. He was on the fast track to the NFL.

"I was sitting with my dad one night and we were watching Monday Night Football, and I happened to see Bo Jackson. And I looked over at my dad and I said, 'This is what I want to do with my life,'" said Dr. Holloman.

"[In college], scouts were coming to see me practice," said Dr. Holloman. "They were selling my number 14 jersey in the bookstore. I had a billboard in Harrisonburg, VA."

But he said a major injury at the start of his senior year effectively ended his career.

"I end up tearing almost every ligament in my knee," said Dr. Holloman, "And just like that, the dream that I had since I was five years old was all but gone."

I went through two to three years of depression because my identity was wrapped up in football and I was no longer that," said Dr. Holloman. "And I'm transparent that I had suicidal thoughts."

Then, Dr. Holloman came up with a new game plan.

"I went back to school to get my master's degree... and I went back to get my doctorate degree," said Dr. Holloman. 

"And I remember writing this long research paper... And I asked my professor, I said, 'Did you really read this?' [be]cause I got an 88," said Dr. Holloman. "And she said, 'Yes, I think you're a phenomenal writer!' And that was the first time someone ever said that I was good in something outside of athletics. And so, that inspired me to write The Athlete-Student book series."

The book series' fictional stories of a young athlete balancing a college career and pro football dreams parallel Dr. Holloman's life. Now, he's using them to help the next generation of recruits. 

"I wanted to really sit down with some of the kids in my city," said Dr. Holloman. "It's a different feeling when you actually can meet and shake the hand and talk to a[n] author, and especially from a[n] author that looks like them."

Chesapeake School Board Chairwoman Victoria Proffitt said more kids could benefit from his life lessons. 

"He had spoke at the Chesapeake Center for Student Success, which is our alternative school in Chesapeake," said Proffitt. "And I believe with the value of his books that if we got them in their hands that it could really change their trajectory of their life and change what their goals are."

Dr. Holloman hopes students learn when it comes to success, there's more than one play to get to the end zone.

"The decisions that we make now, they have lasting consequences," said Dr. Holloman. "But consequences [are] not a bad thing... If you make good decisions, you can have good consequences that come from it."

Dr. Holloman has published three books in The Athlete-Student series. He said he's working on the final book now.

For more information, check out Dr. Holloman's website.

Author's Note: The video below is on file from Sept. 9, 2021.