Joshua Holsey believes that under Auburn’s new defensive coaching staff, the defense has a chance to be the best it has been in years – and he is excited to be a part of it.
Holsey suffered his second ACL tear last year in Auburn’s second game of the season against Jacksonville State. When the injury occurred, the defensive back did not know if a return to the football field was possible or warranted.
Now, he is taking reps at the corner and nickel positions in Auburn’s first week of preseason camp.
“I’m just happy to be out there running around. It’s just, it’s fun,” Holsey said after Auburn’s first practice in pads on Friday afternoon. “Sitting on the sidelines for so long, it gets frustrating. You kind of get down on yourself. You don’t really know if you can still do it.”
Soon after his second major knee injury, Holsey came dangerously close to walking away from the field forever. But the overwhelming support he received from teammates, family members and coaches convinced him to choose a different path.
Holsey said he especially appreciates former coach Travaris Robinson (now the defensive coordinator at South Carolina) for his advice after the 2015 injury.
“[He] told me, ‘If you’ve still got anything left in the tank, go for it. Because once it’s done, it’s done. You’ll never get to play again. That’s probably the worst feeling ever, when you can’t really get out there and run again,’ Holsey said. “So he told me, ‘If you’ve got anything left in the tank, you should go for it.'”
Because he was familiar with the process, the second bout of rehab went by quickly. Holsey also better understood the mental climb in front of him.
He looked to his father — who lost part of his lower leg while serving in Iraq — for inspiration and communicated with him often.
“The mental aspect [is the toughest part of recovery] because you never know how that knee is going to respond to you,” he said. “You have to get out there and get in the flow of things. You have to let one of those big offensive linemen kind of dive at that knee. After that, you kind of know if you’re ready to play or not.”
Through the first few days of fall practice, Holsey says he feels better than he ever has.
“Now, when I go out to practice, I don’t really think about it. It’s just second-hand,” Holsey said. “In my mind, if it’s meant to tear again, it will tear again. But I’m not really thinking about it. I’m just trying to go out there and make as many plays as possible and help the team.”
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is focused on strengthening the defense’s mental toughness this preseason and if players need a source of inspiration, they need look no further than their sixth-year senior.
“That’s really big,” Rudy Ford told the media this week. “If you go through some adversity [and] just never give up, just keep on battling through and maintaining. That’s very big – just in case anything – he always pushed through and keeps on battling back.”
“I’m just happy to be out there,” Holsey said. “Trying to make it through the season is a big goal for me.”