|A New Deal for Holyfield family legacy: Making NFL roster|
|RB Elijah takes boxing dadís inspiration to Panthers|
|Published Thursday, May 16, 2019 12:12 pm|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Carolina Panthers running back Elijah Holyfield (33) is looking to create his own legacy as a professional football player. His dad, Evander Holyfield, is a five-time world champion boxer.|
Elijah Holyfield has a famous boxing name, but he’s no pugilist.
The son of five-time world champion Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield is trying to earn a spot on the Carolina Panthers roster, a different challenge from his earlier pursuit of the “sweet science” as a child.
“I boxed and played football at the same time and at some point I was like I don’t want to get hit that much,” the younger Holyfield said, “so I just kept with football and it worked out for me.”
Holyfield, who rushed for 1,059 yards last year as a junior at Georgia, didn’t follow his father’s footsteps, but the connection does make for a conversation starter. The younger Holyfield didn’t quite understand the hubbub surrounding his dad’s career, which resulted in undisputed world titles in the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions – the only boxer in the sport’s history to accomplish the feat. As a child, though, fame wasn’t most important to young Elijah.
“I just kind of look at him as my dad,” he said. “I never looked at him as this big figure until now when I always get asked about him. Now I realize how big a figure he was, with crowds and everything, but I just try to find my own way and I found it in football.”
In order to stay on that path, Holyfield needs to impress the Panthers, who signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent. The knock on Holyfield was a lack of speed at the pre-draft combine with a clocking of 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but Carolina liked the 5-foot-10, 217-pound running back’s physical approach and 6.4 yards per carry average in his final season at Georgia.
“When you put the tape on and watch Elijah Holyfield play, you see explosiveness between the tackles, you see his ability to run the football between the hashes,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “These are guys that played in the SEC against top notch competition and he had success. I know he didn’t run a good 40 time, but when you put the tape on, that’s what we judged him on was his body of work, and it was pretty impressive.”
Holyfield is motivated to prove he belongs in Carolina, where the Panthers are looking to increase competition behind Christian McCaffrey. What counts now, Holyfield reasons, is putting in the work to make the opening day roster.
“I think I’m a very hard worker and physical runner who does have speed to make people miss at the same time, so I bring a nice element to this team,” he said. “Right now I’m just here to work and prove myself.”
That’s the lesson imparted by the elder Holyfield, an undersized heavyweight who won the world title four times and beat the likes of hall of famers George Foreman, Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes.
“If you outwork people, you always wind up on top,” the junior Holyfield said. “That’s what he did, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
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