Trindon Holliday double dangerous
NEWARK, N.J. -- Trindon Holliday got lucky.
On Tuesday, aka Super Bowl media day, all of the Denver Broncos without assigned podiums -- that is, all but 17 of them -- were allowed to hang out together behind a barricade, talking in small groups with towels draped around their shoulders, laughing and joking and pretending there wasn't an onslaught of reporters standing only a few feet away, waiting to interview them.
The setup was different than in recent years, when the guys without podiums were forced to spend media day mingling elbow-to-elbow with reporters, each player usually developing a little orbit around him, answering the same questions over and over.
Holliday, the Broncos' return specialist, is lucky because he isn't a big talker. Plus, most of the folks who did want a minute with the 5-foot-5 speedster were likely to ask some version of the same question: How do you make sure not to fumble on the Biggest Stage Ever?
Even without a podium, Holliday is in the spotlight as one of the more intriguing X factors in Super Bowl XLVIII. Sure, it's possible that Sunday's game between the Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will unfold without Holliday making a big contribution. But it's much more likely he'll do something memorable.
It's much more likely he'll either break free for a big return or fumble for a turnover -- something awesome or awful, depending on which team you're rooting for.
This season, Holliday has a kick return average of 27.7 yards (sixth best in the NFL), including a 105-yard return for a touchdown (longest in Denver history).
He has also fumbled five times.
Holliday is so dynamic, and yet also so unpredictable, that Denver has recently started using the sure-handed Erik Decker in place of him on punts that seem like fair-catch situations. The Broncos can't replicate Holliday's big-play potential (he runs a 4.34 40), but they like the security net provided by Decker. When the ball flies end-over-end toward Holliday on kickoffs, most Broncos fans are holding their breath, waiting to see if he'll catch it and dart past everyone -- or if he'll put it on the turf.
"It goes with the profession," Holliday told espnW on Tuesday. "Sometimes you are standing there second-guessing yourself, whether you want to try to catch this one or let it go. You want to make the right decision, but it happens in a split second. The moment is very big. You can be the hero or you can be the zero."
The fourth-year pro, who played his college ball and ran track at LSU, describes fielding kickoffs as, "Honestly, like a dream." And he doesn't mean a dream job. Holliday has only one recorded play from scrimmage this year, a rushing attempt for 7 yards. So for him, the game exists in those suspended moments as he awaits the ball.
"You block everything out, and you live in your own world in that moment, hoping you can do something right for your team," he said. "The thoughts are huge. It's like you're living in a dream and the moment is just so great that you have to live it all in those few seconds you're on the field."
Holliday smiles when he thinks about those few seconds. He raises his eyes as if watching the ball tumbling through the stadium lights. When he's on the field and he looks up, he sees more than just the football; he sees the whole stadium, filled to the brim with fans, all of them watching the same object he's watching.
Of course, there is also the small concern of the other 21 players on the field, 11 of them running full-speed at him. The key to breaking free is making the right move after catching the ball, but the key to not fumbling is securing the ball before making the right move.
It's a thin line between hero and zero.
"I think I've been trying to make that move before I actually have the ball," Holliday explained. "It's the catch, that one instant as the ball is hitting your hands. I've been trying to make the move before securing the ball."
There is a 50-50 chance -- the flip of a coin -- that the first player to touch the ball after the opening kick on Sunday will be Holliday. He says he has no fear. Anytime a bad thought creeps into his mind, he thinks of his 4-year-old daughter. In those moments, he is reminded that anything is possible, that life is good.
And when the world is watching this Sunday?
"Greatest moment ever," he said. "That's what I'll be thinking as I watch the ball go into the air. What a dream. No pressure. None."