Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Abraham Lincoln) grew tired of the questions after every basketball game.
Inevitably, someone would stroll up to him on the hardwood and ask if he played football. Underclassmen weren't supposed to be so big, they'd say. And at about 250 pounds, they sure weren't supposed to move that fast.
"I kept saying no, that I didn't play football, and they'd just look at me funny," Holley said with a laugh. "They're like, 'Stop playing with me.' That's always how it's been for me, everywhere I go. So when I started thinking about it, people were all like, 'You should play football.' "
Football was always a lingering curiosity for the ESPN Watch List prospect, who took up the sport less than a year ago. The defensive tackle played basketball since third grade, and he always wondered about the sport. But his mother wasn't a fan of him playing such a rough-and-tumble game.
Holley didn't press the issue because he was over the league's weight limit in middle school anyway. He couldn't play football if he was over 185 pounds -- and he towered over most of his classmates at 6-foot, 230. But when fan after fan kept approaching him after those high school games, Holley couldn't resist.
He had to try it out. He wasn't even sure if he'd like it -- but what did he have to lose? He recruited his uncle to help persuade his mother into allowing him to play toward the end of his sophomore year. Scholarship offers weren't on his mind at that point, so he just focused on maintaining his weight by shedding fat and adding muscle.