Randy Holleran, one of the greatest tacklers ever to play for the University of Kentucky, knows not many people remember who he was.
Once, some time ago, he was asked to leave the UK training facility where his picture, a menacing black-and-white photo of him in the old Power K helmet, adorned one of its walls.
That’s OK. The last several years he’s been able to see part of himself in living color in his sons on a Franklin County football field. And the last one, he thinks, might be able to play some college football, too.
“If I could go out today and had the ability, I would. But now I get to go watch him play,” a proud elder Holleran said standing next to a barely taller Brady at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds.
His dad went to Kentucky from 1986 to 1991, burning up the tackling records despite losing his junior season to a blown knee. Randy Holleran’s 29 tackles in one game and 102 solo tackles in one season remain school records. His 174 tackles in 1990 rank third on UK’s all-time list. That’s a tough legacy to follow, but Brady smiles at the mention.
“He doesn’t really talk about it, and I get why.” Brady said. “He wants me to be my own person. I get that. And I kind of like him for that.”
One of state’s top tacklers
Brady, who has a twin sister and is the youngest of three Holleran boys, has developed into one of Kentucky high school’s best tacklers in his own right for the Flyers. His 12.3 tackles per game ranks him in the top 10 in Class 4A and the top 25 statewide. His five sacks rank second overall. In 2018, he notched 142 tackles, 121 of them solo, and 13.5 sacks, each good enough to make the statewide top 25.
Brady plays on the defensive line with the same heart and ferocity his dad played linebacker (according to Randy’s expert opinion), but he’s a bit undersized by today’s elite college standards, and he’s having a tough time getting noticed by college recruiters.
“Football is probably everything to me besides school,” Brady said. “Honestly, if I didn’t get an offer, I’d probably walk on somewhere. … It’s a lot to think about because I know I’m going to go off to college soon, in a year. Not knowing where I’m going to go is kind of nerve-wracking.”
His Franklin County head coach believes a lot of folks are missing out.
“Brady is just a great talent,” said Coach Eddie James during a scorching Tuesday practice as he prepared his team to take on Class 4A rival Anderson County at home Friday night. “He’s a good leader. He’s got a motor like nobody I’ve ever seen and this is my 15th year coaching high school football. He just plays hard every snap. It doesn’t matter what we ask him to do. … He just gives all-out effort all the time, and I think a lot of that comes from home.”
As the youngest in a hyper-competitive football family, Brady took his share of licks.
“Growing up in a crazy household it’s just competitive, competitive competitive,” Brady said. “It’s like (when) we eat, it’s whoever finishes first, you win. You go outside and play two-hand touch football — and (it’s) whoever wins that. It’s just competition nonstop.”
Despite the losses and bruises growing up as the smallest Holleran, he didn’t complain, his dad said.
“That’s why he’s as tough as he is,” Randy said. “He’ll get knocked down and he’ll get bumped up and get hurt, but he doesn’t quit, and he doesn’t stop.”
Brothers Keenan and Chad each played football for the Flyers, too. Their playing careers ended with their high school days, even though the middle one, Chad, got some preferred walk-on offers to Louisville and some other schools.
Each of his sons brought something different. Keenan had size. Chad had speed. Brady has a bit of both and a determination unlike the others, Randy said.
“I’ve improved on each one,” Randy said with a chuckle, noting he’s pleased with all of his sons and the paths they’ve chosen after football. “I may have been the hardest on him (Brady) because of the time we’ve spent and the things we’ve done.”
Like father, like son
Randy didn’t get his first start until his senior year in high school but played for an elite program in the Pittsburgh area. While Penn State teased a scholarship offer only to never follow through, UK decided to take a chance on a brash young man who told them he thought he could start his freshman year after seeing a bit of film on a visit. At roughly the same build his maybe more humble, but no less self-assured son Brady is now, Randy became a second-team All-American and two-time All-SEC player. He’s hoping a school will take a chance on Brady like UK did on him.
“You can’t change what God gave you,” Randy said. “But I’ve always told him you can always change how much effort you give, how much determination you have, how hard you work, what kind of shape you’re in. If you watch him on film, he’ll run every play down. He runs till the whistle blows. He gives effort like nobody else I’ve ever seen.”
Brady Holleran knows the goals he’s set out might not come to full fruition, but his dad has tried to prepare him for more than football and teach him that just because you didn’t reach a particular goal, it doesn’t mean you didn’t accomplish something.
“I’m not raising players to be NFL athletes or college football players. I’m raising them to be football players because I like the game and I enjoy sharing it with them,” Randy said. “The things that he’ll get from playing this game will long surpass him playing the game. … The biggest thing I tell them is to be who you are and don’t forget where you came from. …
“We’re blue-collar guys. We’re going to come out and work hard. And if you do that, something good will happen.”