Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2005 | People

Unbelievable: Warren Holloway

By Rob Howe

Warren Holloway likely played his last competitive football game during the New Year’s Day Capital One Bowl in Orlando. But, oh, what a way to go out.

Iowa’s senior receiver graduated from unknown to unforgettable in a matter of seconds. As precious time ticked off the scoreboard clock, Holloway stole the spot light by catching the game-winning 56-yard touchdown from quarterback Drew Tate.

The scoring reception was the first of Holloway’s collegiate career and gave the Hawkeyes a thrilling 30-25 victory against defending national champion Louisiana State University. Up to that moment, he was mainly known for his blocking abilities and contributions to special teams.

Now the Homewood, Illinois, native lives in Hawkeye lore. When fans of the black and gold debate the greatest plays and games in school history, the discussion will no doubt include Warren Holloway—a young man with exactly four catches in his first three seasons. Even the New York Times recognized Holloway’s accomplishment by plastering his photo on the front page of its January 2 sports section.

Year after year, Holloway watched as teammates passed him on the Hawkeye depth chart. But he patiently hung in there, waiting to make the most of his chance. “I’ve been around Warren for four years now, and he’s one of the hardest-working kids you’re ever going to meet,” Iowa wideout Ed Hinkel told the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “He’s the last one off of the field after practice every day. He’s persevered for five years now. First touchdown, last game, it’s great to see that.”

By the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes boasted a 24-12 lead. That advantage looked safe with LSU starting quarterback Marcus Randall sidelined with an injury and his backup struggling. Then, the Tigers inserted third-stringer JaMarcus Russell. The freshman engineered a pair of touchdown drives, giving LSU a 26-24 lead with 46 seconds remaining in the game. The Hawkeyes planned on moving into field goal range with two timeouts left. However, poor clock management left them with time only for a desperation play.

Tate launched the ball towards Holloway as the receiver’s defender slipped to the ground just inside the 10-yard line of LSU. He grabbed the pass in stride, shook off a would-be tackler, and raced into the end zone. A smile that seemed to stretch from Tampa to Jacksonville lit up Holloway’s face as his teammates piled around him before raising him atop their shoulders for a hero’s ride.

Tate took home the bowl’s Most Valuable Player honors. The true sophomore from Baytown, Texas, completed 20 of 32 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Other game standouts included Hinkel (10 receptions, 93 yards), punter David Bradley (six punts, 49.2-yard average), linebacker Abdul Hodge (15 tackles, three sacks), and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (seven tackles, three sacks, 4 1/2 tackles for loss).

Iowa won its last eight games for a 10-2 record, marking the third consecutive season with a double-digit victory total. The Hawks established new school records for wins in four-year and three-year spans with 38 and 31, respectively. In their final polls, the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches rated Iowa No. 8 in the nation for the third year in a row. That has happened just one other time (1956-58).

Victory was all the sweeter considering the tremendous obstacles that the team overcame in 2004. The Hawkeyes lost their top three running backs to knee surgeries and a fourth ball carrier missed significant time with an ankle injury. Head coach Kirk Ferentz’s father, John, died during the week of the Penn State game, and Jeff Parker, the popular son of defensive coordinator Norm Parker, passed away last summer. Diabetes hospitalized Norm Parker on and off throughout the season, including the eve of the bowl game.

All of the troubles and heartache disappeared, if only briefly, during that amazing moment in Orlando. From a series of unfortunate events came something wonderful for the Hawkeyes and Holloway.

“Warren’s a guy that doesn’t get a lot of publicity, but during [preseason] camp we had player talks and Warren got up there and said something that I’ll never forget,” Iowa guard Brian Ferentz told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “He said on this team, giving 100 percent doesn’t make you special, it just makes you part of the team. That’s the best anyone has ever put into words what we’re all about.”