FOXBORO (CBS) – It has been one heck of a ride for 28-year-old wide receiver Jesse Holley, the newest edition to a crowded New England Receiving Corp.
Holley, who the Patriots signed on Monday, went undrafted out of North Carolina in 2007. He spent time on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad that season, and after a stint in the CFL didn’t work out, Holley became a cell phone salesman to pay the bills. He spent a year and a half out of football before trying out for, and winning, Michael Irving’s reality show “4th and Long” in 2009. After his performance on the show, Holley was given an invite to the Cowboys’ camp.
He spent the 2009 season and part of 2010 on the Dallas practice squad. He was eventually signed to the 53-man roster and finished 2011 with seven receptions for 169 yards.
After being released from the Cowboys last week, Holley was planning a vacation. But when he landed in Cancun, Mexico, he received a phone call to get back to the states as soon as possible. The New England Patriots wanted him in for a tryout.
“I always laugh because I say, ‘God has a sense of humor’, and he gets a laugh out of me all the time,” Holley said of his career path Tuesday afternoon at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots began their minicamp. “Even coming here, like I said before, I just landed in Mexico and I turned my phone on and my agent is like, ‘Where are you at?’ I’m like, ‘Mexico, Cancun.’ He’s like, ‘Well, you have to get back. The Patriots want to come in and work you out.’ I grab my bag, find a flight to get back here and I get back at the wee hours of the morning and I’m ready for a workout the next morning. It’s just another chapter in the book, something I can tell my kids and grandkids when I’m old and gray.”
Holley was signed by the Patriots on Monday, giving him another opportunity to live his dream.
“I was excited,” he said of the chance to play for New England. “This organization is a great organization and a winning organization and I’m just blessed to truly be a part of it and I want to succeed here. Hopefully I can be here for a very long time.”
Holley has plenty of work ahead of him. With the Patriots playbook to learn, he’ll have his hands full for the near future.
“Have you ever been to Japan,” Holley asked a reporter who asked what the Pats’ system looks like for a new player coming in. “Do you speak Japanese? (The reporter replied ‘No’) OK, that’s it right there.”
Holley doesn’t speak Japanese, so how does he intend on learning such a complex playbook?
“I just ordered Rosetta Stone,” he joked. “I’m working my way through it; taking it one day at a time. I’m around a bunch of veteran guys, asking questions. My notebook will probably be filled by tonight. I’ve closed my mouth, opened my eyes and opening my ears and absorbing as much as I can.”
Jesse Holley On Patriots, Opportunity:
Holley has not had many moments in the NFL, but his defining one thus far game in Week 2 last season, when his 77-yard reception in overtime led to the Cowboys game-winning field goal over the San Francisco 49ers in San Fran. He had three receptions that game for 96 yards. It would take him seven more weeks to record another reception.
But he’s overcome the odds before, and intends to do the same in New England.
“Work my tail off – that’s what my life has been all about,” he said. “I’ve worked my tail off each and every place that I’ve been my entire life at everything I’ve done. One thing about hard work, it always pays off in anything you do, whether it’s on the field [or] off the field, in life, in marriage, in relationships, being a friend, being a brother, being a mentor, whatever it is. If you work your tail off, success will find you.”