Duke coach David Cutcliffe was getting ready to say a blessing for the food at the team’s pregame meal on Saturday when Duke’s very own miracle walked through the door.
At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, receiver Blair Holliday was expected to be a starter this season. Now, after a life-threatening jet ski accident in July, simply being able to walk into a room full of his teammates is a victory. Holliday’s return to the football building was the biggest triumph in the ACC this past weekend -- especially for those closest to him.
“It was a surreal moment when he walked in our pregame meal, all dressed to a T in his new suit,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s a big, tall young man. You could’ve heard a pin drop when he walked through the doors.”
Cutcliffe told the team to "welcome back No. 8," and they responded by giving Holliday a standing ovation. Holliday went around the room and gave his teammates hugs.
“It was one of those times where the clock stopped,” Cutcliffe said. “Time did stand still for a moment.”
Holliday went on the field for the pregame coin toss, but Cutcliffe said he thought the safest place for him to watch the game against NC Central would be in the head coach’s office, which overlooks the stadium. Holliday, though, wouldn’t have any of it. He wanted to be on the sideline again. Cutcliffe relented, and Holliday watched the game protected by his teammates.
Holliday’s story still isn’t over. Cutcliffe said there will be “a lot of challenges” ahead for his receiver, who had to learn to walk and talk again after suffering a severe head injury.
“The most difficult thing is to fight frustration, depression, a feeling of, ‘I’m not going to get there,’” Cutcliffe said. “I told him, ‘Rome was not built in a day.’ He’s used to things happening quickly for him. I told him it’s not going to be the same. His goals are our goals. Whatever he wants is what we want. We’re there to support him. I left it at that.”