Former QB Holieway admires Alabama true freshman QB Hurts
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Jamelle Holieway dazzled the college football world as a true freshman who mastered Oklahoma's dynamic wishbone attack and led the Sooners to the 1985 national championship.
The 5-foot-11 field general stepped in after Troy Aikman went down with a broken leg during a loss to Miami early in the season, and the Sooners didn't miss a beat after that game. Oklahoma won seven straight to close out the regular season, then beat Penn State in the Orange Bowl, making Holieway the only true freshman quarterback to lead a Bowl Subdivision team to a national title.
Redshirt freshmen QBs have won it all, including Jameis Winston just a few seasons ago, but Holieway stands alone as the only true frosh to pull it off from the most important position on the field.
Alabama's Jalen Hurts is two wins away from joining Holieway. The top-ranked Crimson Tide will play No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 in a national semifinal.
Holieway, now 49 and living in Quinton, Oklahoma, has enjoyed watching Hurts from afar and sees similarities in their skills and situations.
''It's amazing that he has the same initials,'' Holieway told The Associated Press by telephone. ''It's amazing that he's a true freshman. And three, black. So we've got three things going.''
Holieway likes the intelligence Hurts brings to the game. He remembers the knock on black quarterbacks in the old days, that they weren't smart enough to lead. Now, he sees Hurts using his brains and athleticism at the highest level of college football, and he's proud. He expects Hurts and the Crimson Tide to claim the championship.
''I'm very fond of the young man,'' Holieway said. ''He keeps his composure when the game is really tough, and they win. Thirty-one years ago, that was us.''
Holieway had hoped for a chance to voice his appreciation for Hurts' game. He feels a connection to Hurts, yet they've never met and he wondered if Hurts even knows who he was. Hurts has only spoken to reporters once so far this season and isn't expected to be available until next week before the Peach Bowl.
In a way, Holieway believes Hurts winning a national title would be a greater accomplishment that his leading the Sooners to the championship.
''I think of how hard it is for any quarterback to do it (win a national title),'' Holieway said. ''Now, because of the parity, because of the equality across the board - back then, you might have had six powerhouses. So you can basically weed them out and figure out who's going to win the national championship. But now, it's a coin toss.''
Holieway's road to stardom was unexpected. Aikman was an Oklahoma native with a strong arm and pro potential, so chances were good that Holieway would have to wait a while to play.
''My expectation was that I wanted to make the traveling team,'' he said. ''I didn't want to stay in Norman when they had away games because it was a ghost town back then, and everybody went their separate ways.''
Holieway had worked some with the first team the week of the Miami game that Aikman was injured in, so he was prepared. He never thought about Aikman's shadow when he took over.
''That part never entered my mind,'' Holieway said. ''The part that entered my mind was, `It's your time.' And you have to do whatever it is that the coaches ask of you, and you have to do it well. And given the opportunity, I did pretty well.''
Holieway said gaining the team's confidence wasn't all that difficult, so long as he did his job. The Sooners thumped Iowa State 59-14 in his first start to set the tone. They later crushed No. 2 Nebraska 27-7 in Norman, then beat Oklahoma State and SMU to position themselves for a shot at the title on New Year's Day.
Holieway still credits Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer for showing confidence in him.
''He believed in me as a baby, as a young man, and I was up here with grown men,'' Holieway said.
Hurts has won over the Crimson Tide the same way Holieway won the Sooners over - by handling business in big game after big game.
''Winning, just like Dak Prescott in Dallas,'' Holieway said. ''Winning cures all symptoms. It really does when you're playing sports.''
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