"You can't worry about the way I drive," says Jamelle (J-Boe) Holieway, his foot pressed firmly on the accelerator of his electric blue El Camino.
The Oklahoma quarterback is bare-chested, wearing only olive drab shorts, unlaced Adidas shoes and a heavy gold necklace. Oh, and two rings the size of doorknobs—one for the Sooners' 1985 national championship, the other for last year's Big Eight title. The word JAM-MIN is tattooed on his left biceps.
With only two days left till he loads the El Camino for the long drive to Oklahoma, the 20-year-old Holieway has many errands to run around Carson, Calif. First, it's over to his alma mater, Banning High School, to say goodbye to a teacher, followed by a stop at a check-cashing store. "You wouldn't want to be around here at night," he says, wheeling past weedy sidewalks and dismal storefronts. Fierce? "Beyond fierce."
On a side street, his way is blocked by a crowd of youths gathered around a car. Holieway, an accomplished scrambler, finds an escape route over curbs and sidewalks, because "driving a car like this, somebody could put a gun to your head and kill you for it."
Now it's on to a car wash to have the engine steam-cleaned. "It's like I have a hole in my pocket," he says, watching $50 gurgle down the drain. Back behind the wheel, Holieway jokes about the ordeal that awaits him in Norman. "The first day is the running test. Humid, 99 degrees...If you haven't been working out, that's when they find out."
Is he worried? Holieway shakes his head. While taking two courses at Orange Coast College—history and sociology—to ensure that he'll graduate with his class in 1989, he has worked out diligently with one of his best friends, USC fullback Leroy (Big Daddy) Holt. Holieway is preparing for a big year.
"I'd like to win the Heisman," he says. "I'll have to rush for over a thousand yards and pass for another thousand." Doubt crosses his face; he won't throw for a thousand if he's limited to 60 attempts this season, which is what he's averaged the last two years. "Hopefully, we'll pass a little more." Any other immediate goals? "Academic All-America. That would be the ultimate for me, and especially for my mother."
Last year must have made Mom proud. Jamelle was the Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year, rushing for 811 yards and eight touchdowns and throwing for four TDs. Though he takes a pounding, Holieway has missed only one game the last two years with an injury. He sat out this year's spring practice, however, because he broke his right thumb on St. Patrick's Day. "I was horsing around with Derrick Crudup [a defensive back]," he says, "and I bent it back on a roll-out bed. He's big; I'm quick. But in my room I'm not expecting much. On the field I take precautions."
Turning into the Del Amo subdivision Holieway heads for home and reflects on the roughest test he has faced as a quarterback. No hesitation: "Last year's Nebraska game," when he engineered three fourth-quarter scoring drives. "I like to be under the gun when the odds are all against me," he says.
A car stops beside Holieway's. The driver is a young woman who wonders if Holieway is free tonight. He is not.
Holieway shakes his head as she drives away. "You get caught up in this life," he says, pulling up in front of his parents' house and killing the engine. "You have to make your own fun in Oklahoma. Here,"—he takes in California with a sweeping gesture—"there's fun just waiting outside."
That said, J-Boe goes inside to start packing. Summer's over.