In early 2009 Jesse Holley was working security and selling cellphones after playing football and basketball at UNC, winning an NCAA championship with the Tar Heels in 2005. As an undrafted free agent, the Cincinnati Bengals signed him to their practice squad and then cut him in 2008. He then signed with the BC Lions of the CFL and was promptly cut after their first pre-season game. He assumed his career was done and it was time to move on. That is until he saw ads looking for people to tryout for Michael Irvin’s then-upcoming reality show on Spike, “4th and Long.” Here was the pitch: six wide receivers would face off against six cornerbacks over 10 weeks with the winner receiving the 80th roster spot when the 2009 Dallas Cowboys opened training camp. Holley won the contest and the show, and was on his way to NFL training camp once again. But just like his first go-around, Holley was assigned to the Cowboys' practice squad, where he would remain for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
This year, however, Holley made the Dallas squad out of training camp and due to the injury to Dez Bryant was the team's third wide receiver Sunday against the 49ers. Holley stepped up in the fourth quarter, catching his first two NFL passes. It wasn’t until overtime, though, that the legend of Jesse Holley truly played out. On the Cowboys' first possession, Holley reeled in a 77-yard pass from Tony Romo. Though he was tackled at the 1-yard line, the long completion set up the Cowboys' game-winning 19-yard field goal, and kept Dallas from starting the season 0-2. In the video below, check out his reaction after making the play: it's one-part joy, one-part gratitude, one-part relief.
Whether or not Holley contributes significantly the rest of the season for the Cowboys remains to be seen, but either way, Holley made quite an NFL debut and at least partially has to thank a reality show and Michael Irvin for the opportunity. Who knows if Hollywood will ever make his story into a movie, but for one day at least Jesse Holley got to play the hero.
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