When it comes to Ralph Holley, the statistics don’t tell the entire story.
Hey, the stat sheet doesn’t tell half his story.
For instance, in last season’s Division 3 state championship game, the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s nose guard was credited with one sack and only three tackles.
They seem like rather pedestrian stats for one of the top defensive linemen in the state, until you realize that Holley often occupied two offensive linemen or two linemen and a running back trying to keep him out of the backfield.
“If they can’t stop me, and I’ve been tearing it up in the backfield, they usually send a running back and the center and the guard to triple-team me,” Holley said. “I don’t particularly like double-teams, but when I take double-teams, it opens a hole for linebackers to make plays. It’s all about the team, to be honest. A play I don’t get is a play that the linebacker will get to benefit the team.
“That’s satisfying to me because I know that I helped get that play.”
Holley, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound senior, made the leap from St. Mary’s freshman team to the varsity by the end of his freshman season.
As a sophomore, he worked his way into the starting lineup as his technique steadily improved.
“I came in as a sophomore with some pretty big guys on top of me, and I had to work my way to the top,” he said. “I didn’t start every game, but I started some games as a sophomore. The first game I started was against U-D. And I’ll never forget — I had three sacks that game. It was an eye-opener, like this is what I was called to do.”
Holley also has participated in basketball and track and field, and last spring qualified for the Division 2 state meet in the shot put.
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But the aspect of track and field that might have benefited him more than the shot put was running the 200 meters. Holley is anything but a premier sprinter, but the daily track workouts improved his speed and footwork, and it easily translates to football.
“I don’t want to be a big guy that can’t move,” he said. “I’ve got to be able to be mobile and move quick.”
Holley likes to line up and angle down on the center, which is when he uses his club-and-rip move to get into the backfield.
“I club them to the side and rip through his arm,” he said, describing a move where he begins by smacking the center in the arm. “To perfect it, it took me a good three or four months. I’m pretty sound with my hand placements and everything like that.”
He received the best birthday gift ever Jan. 22 when Miami (Ohio) offered him a scholarship. Since then, he has acquired eight other offers and has committed to Western Michigan.
“My mom was relieved. My dad was relieved,” Holley said. “They were, ‘Oh, we don’t have to pay for college!’ It’s a great blessing for the family.”
The way Holley looks at it, football in general has been a blessing to him.
“I like how it builds my character,” he said. “It challenges me every day, with the running and the constant punishment we take. It challenges us to mature as men. I’ve learned I can overcome adversity.”
Note: Wide receiver KJ Hamler, who transferred from OLSM to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior season, tore his ACL in a preseason game last week. He has been recruited by Michigan and Michigan State, among others.
Meet the Eaglets
Last season: 12-1.
Top players: LB/RB Josh Ross, LB/OL Dwayne Chapman, NG/OG Ralph Holley, LB John Pearson, RB/DB Shermond Dabney, DB/WR Richard Bowens.
State playoff record: 64-14.
Coach: George Porritt, 28th season (246-67).
Overview: The Eaglets are the odds-on favorite to three-peat in Division 3. Ross, verbally committed to Michigan, is a dominating defender, and he will see a lot of action on offense this season. Chapman will team with Ross to give St. Mary’s a dynamic pair at inside linebacker. Holley controls the middle of the line on a stingy defense that returns eight starters.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.