5. Josh Holsey
Why he’s here: Josh Holsey’s path to the top 5 of 2016 started well before his senior season.
You could say it started in 2004. That’s when his U.S. Army father suffered an injury during an explosion that required the amputation of his left leg. You could say it began in 2013, or even 2015. That’s when Holsey tore his ACL for the first and second times in his Auburn career.
For 2016, in particular, his journey to No. 5 formed from a conversation with his first-year defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele.
“When I first got here and I met with all the players individually … the very first thing I asked him, I said, ‘Josh, what would you like to see happen this year?'” Steele said. “And he said, ‘coach, I just want to get on the field and play.’ He did that.”
He certainly did.
Holsey regularly entered his media sessions with ear-to-ear smiles, serving as one of the few Tigers talking heads. He brought a public energy about him that flaunted his rare appreciation for health and playing time. Holsey likes to have fun.
That care-free enjoyment carried over to the football field, where Holsey served as the senior leader in a youthful cornerback group. He made victory-saving interceptions to help win the Ole Miss and Vanderbilt games in back-to-back weeks.
Holsey led the Tigers in passes broken up, interceptions and interception return yards. Two of those picks came against arguably the two best quarterbacks Auburn faced all season: Deshaun Watson and Chad Kelly. He took control in big moments this season for Auburn.
Holsey will be dearly missed at Auburn, though he’ll go down as one of the most beloved members of the 2016 squad. For Holsey, it was a dream realized to show the rest of the Auburn family that he could perform with the best of them at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“It just shows that hard work just pays off,” Holsey said. “I’ve just been working my tail off to get back on the field and make plays and produce and be the best I can be.”
Bad mistake by Watson and Joshua Holsey grabs an interception. This kid has played lights out. https://t.co/xSsc2Vm4JC
— Dakota Moyer (@DakMoyer) September 4, 2016
Season stats: 10 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, 47 interception return yards, 25 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
Next season: It’s almost the end of a storybook Auburn career. But Holsey still hopes to continue the Cinderella story in the NFL. Generously listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Holsey won’t bring a professional frame to the NFL combine or Auburn’s pro day. His coach-speak “coach-on-the-field” savvy will be his best chance. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t list Holsey in his top 10 among cornerbacks. Holsey ranks as the No. 286 overall NFL draft prospect, according to NFLDraftScout.com. The odds are stacked against him, but that’s nothing new to Holsey.
Top 10 Auburn football players
No. 10: DE Marlon Davidson
No. 9: RB Kerryon Johnson
No. 8: QB Sean White
No. 7: LB Deshaun Davis
No. 6: OG Alex Kozan
No. 5: CB Josh Holsey