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College Hoops Standout Trying To Make Ravens Roster


Murphy Holloway put on cleats and a helmet, and stepped onto the football field for the first time in seven years.

He hasn't played football since his sophomore year of high school, but this weekend he joined the defending Super Bowl champions.

After a stellar college basketball career at Ole Miss, Holloway was one of 14 undrafted free agents signed by Baltimore before this weekend's minicamp, as he hopes to become the latest college hoops player to make the transition to an NFL tight end.

"It was fun," Holloway said after Friday's practice. "I still got a lot to learn, but it was fun competing."

Holloway is looking to follow in the footsteps of other college basketball players who have recently made the move to tight end.

Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates are the most notable, as they've been two of the game's best tight ends for the last decade. Gonzalez played football and basketball at Cal-Berkley, but Gates didn't play any football during his college career at Kent State.

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is another recent basketball convert, making the jump to the NFL after playing just one season of college football for the University of Miami. He's proven to be a dynamic talent for the Saints, racking up 25 receiving touchdowns in his first three seasons. 

"Those players have shown that it can be done," Holloway said.

Like Gonzalez, Gates and Graham, Holloway has the prototypical size to be an NFL tight end. At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, the former power forward has the stature and athleticism that made him attractive to NFL teams.

"I was playing basketball and had a few scouts that came at me and asked if I wanted to try football," Holloway said.  "I thought about giving it a shot as soon as the basketball season was over. I did. And you see where I'm at now, and I'm just trying to make the transition."

Holloway initially had interest in trying to make it in the NBA, but he's undersized as a power forward and thought that he'd have a better chance in the NFL.

He was a starter for the last two years at Ole Miss and averaged 14.5 points and 9.7 rebounds during his senior season. He's the all-time leader in school history with 1,093 rebounds. His rebounding production shows that he can go up and win jump balls in traffic, and he says that he has good hands as a receiver.

"I'm not worried about that," Holloway said. "It's not the physicality. I think learning the playbook is the hardest. College basketball is time consuming. I know that football is going to be time consuming. That's what comes with it."

Holloway hasn't studied a football playbook since high school, when he played receiver and safety. But the plays he had to learn in high school were basic; far from the complex playbooks in the NFL.

"I don't know any of the terminology – so I'm just trying to learn all of that," he said. "I just ask the other tight ends, the coach, the tight ends coach, I take notes. I've tried making flash cards."

The other challenge is learning the blocking schemes that go with playing tight end. He's confident in his ability as a pass catcher, but tight ends play a key role in the blocking schemes within the Ravens* *offense. 

"Blocking is a tough part also, knowing which way to block," Holloway said. "I'm going against people who have done this their whole life, so I'm just trying to get it down."

The last few months have been a whirlwind for Holloway.

In March, he was at the center of the college basketball world. He was a key member of the 12th-seeded Ole Miss team that knocked off Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Now he's trying to show he belongs on an NFL roster, while also finishing up academically at Ole Miss. Holloway will graduate next week with a degree in criminal justice, and said that he's combining his studying for finals along with learning the playbook.

"I got exams to study for, a playbook to study," he said. "I've got a lot going on."

Once his graduation is behind him, Holloway's sole focus will be on the football field. He's out to show the coaching staff that he can join players like Gates and Graham and make the transition back to football, and he's counting on his athleticism to help lead the way. 

"I just try to let my good outweigh my bad – that's my athleticism and catching ability," Holloway said. "My areas I need to improve are my stance, coming off blocking, things like that. I'm going to just need time to work at it."

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