The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Mike Holloway touches hearts with Hall of Fame speech

725 days ago
Florida Athletics
Photo: Craig Macaluso

Orlando, Fla. - Mike "Mouse" Holloway entered the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame as only he could.

Florida's longtime coach rarely talked about himself during his five-minute induction speech. There were no championship stories, no tales of individual success by he or his pupils, not even a mention of track and field itself, save for retelling the story of his Aunt Liz taking him to his first track meet as a youngster in Columbus, Ohio.

For Holloway, this honor was not just his.

It was everybody's.

Every student-athlete who competed for him, every assistant who coached alongside him, all his family and friends who supported this lifelong journey and vision. Wednesday (Dec. 14) night was Holloway's platform to celebrate all they did for him throughout his historic career.

Mouse began his speech as he does everything else in his life: he thanked God "for being the head of (his) life."

Next he thanked his mother, Nelvina, and father, Jacob, who passed away last year, for raising him to "be (his) own man."

Those words, to be my own man, hit home for Nelvina as she wiped tears from under her eyes.

Jacob always wanted Mouse to work at Jacob & Sons Clean-Up, the car detailing shop he owned in Columbus. Holloway's divergence from the path his father wanted him to follow was difficult for both of them. Over his final decade, though, Jacob realized his son wanted different things, and that his son needed to do what he loved.

"His father never wanted him to run track, be a coach or any of that," Nelvina said in a phone interview two days prior to the ceremony. "I was all for him doing what he wanted to do, not what his father wanted him to do. It was difficult every day trying to convince his father he was making the right decision for himself. His father came around and realized (detailing cars) wasn't what he wanted to do.

"Before he died, he was very proud of Mike."

In one of the few instances he spoke of himself, Mouse revealed to the banquet room full of his peers where his life's dedication to uplifting and caring for others originated.

"As a little boy, I was often asked, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'" Holloway said. "My answer was always: a lawyer. I wanted to help. I wanted to help many friends and family and other loved ones I saw were in trouble. I really believed that as a lawyer I could keep them out of trouble and keep them out of jail."

He thanked Florida athletic director emeritus Jeremy Foley and former UF men's head coach Doug Brown for hiring him back in 1996. He praised his staff for their unwavering trust and belief. He lauded program coordinator Therese LeGrow for always keeping him "sane and organized." He commended Ed Stone, his coach at Columbus Linden-McKinley High School, his ever-present mentor, and the man that "dragged (Holloway) kicking and screaming into adulthood." He saluted legendary coach Brooks Johnson, who sat to Holloway's immediate right much of the evening, for teaching him to constantly challenge himself and those around him. He recognized his wife, Angela, for "holding (him) up so (he) won't fall, and for believing in (his) dreams." He thanked his children and grandchildren for being his "joy and inspiration."

All those commendations built up to the most heartfelt moment of the night.

Tears once again filled Nelvina's eyes as her son shared a life-changing memory.

Holloway recalled how, as a teenager, a Sports Illustrated article profiling two Columbus basketball players' success at a small Louisiana college served as a source of inspiration. He carried it everywhere, reading it almost nonstop.

Then mom got ahold of it.

"After a few days, my mother walked up to me, took it out of my hand, and looked me in the eye and said, 'I want you to work hard and make something of yourself so I can read about you in a magazine someday,'" Holloway said.

Looking only at his mother, seated at the family's table in front of the stage, Holloway gave a reassuring thumbs up and told her, "Mom, I think we made it."