Another sad chapter for Holieway
On a hot Sunday in June, I spent more than two hours with Jamelle Holieway and a couple hundred of our closest friends, tucked into the tiny Sooner Schooner store on Lindsey Street in Norman.
Assembled was a remarkable collection of OU football heroes: the Sooners’ five national championship quarterbacks, together for a book-signing. Actually, all five never were together — Jimmy Harris had to leave for a plane before Josh Heupel arrived from his football camp. But the persistent fan could get autographs from all five: Claude Arnold (1950), Harris (1955-56), Steve Davis (1974-75), Holieway (1985) and Heupel (2000).
Of the five, I’d only dined with one. Holieway. In January 1985, I accompanied OU recruiting coordinator Scott Hill on a whirlwind, week-long trip, capped by a Thursday night dinner with an OU booster and Holieway, then a high school senior at Banning High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Wilmington. One of the two or three times I’ve ever eaten lobster.
You know the rest. Less than a year later, Holieway quarterbacked the Sooners to a 25-10 Orange Bowl victory over Penn State and placed himself into college football lore, as a true freshman who led a national championship team. Holieway was a landmark QB, his career short-circuited by a horrific knee injury in 1987 against Oklahoma State, but always remembered as the optioneer who took over for Troy Aikman in that magic year of 1985.
In the years that followed, Holieway seemed to struggle. Run-ins with the law. Traffic fines, minor drug offenses, just sort of a wayward existence.
But on that hot June day, Holieway could not have been more accommodating. He was charming with the fans, even working the line to get autographs rather than sitting at the table waiting. Holieway was deferential to the other title-winning quarterbacks. I enjoyed chatting with Holieway. I think I was like a lot of people that day who hoped that maybe Holieway had turned around his life.
Then came word Tuesday that Holieway and a female companion had been arrested Sunday in McAlester, where he has been living, on a complaint of shoplifting from a Wal-Mart. They also had outstanding warrants and were taken to the Pittsburg County Jail, where they posted bail.
It made me sad. I see all the OU football players who used their college football careers as a springboard to a productive, fruitful life. Dewey Selmon and Steve Owens and J.C. Watts and hundreds of others, including quarterbacks named Arnold, Harris, Davis and Heupel.
I don’t know why Holieway hasn’t grown up, why he hasn’t been able to take command of his life. Even Charles Thompson, Holieway’s old teammate, who wrote a scathing autobiography about their old shenanigans and who ended up in federal prison for drug trafficking, seems to have produced a productive life.
Holieway isn’t a young man anymore. He turned 42 a couple of weeks after that autograph signing. He’s got a name that still resonates with a good many Oklahomans. He still can do something with his life. But the clock is ticking.
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