When Blair Holliday suffered brain trauma after a tragic Jet Ski accident on July 4, it was questionable whether or not the Duke wide receiver would live. Once his condition stabilized, it was questionable whether or not he would walk.
Now Holliday is doing both, and with the Blue Devils set to open their 2012 campaign Saturday night against Florida International, head coach David Cutcliffe and members of his coaching staff will fly to Atlanta and visit the wide receiver at the Shepherd Center Wednesday afternoon. Holliday is preparing to move to outpatient care in the near future and will remain in Atlanta for the time being.
Cutcliffe beamed with pride as he made the announcement at his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, with his first opportunity to visit Holliday since he was transferred to the Shepherd Center after previously being treated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Trauma Center.
As Cutcliffe tried to explain his feelings about seeing Holliday and his excitement about the wide receiver’s progress in rehabilitation, the emotion in the room was palpable.
“I’m kind of like a kid at Christmas, I’m so excited [to see Holliday],” Cutcliffe said. “I talk with him on the phone, but I’m really excited about that. He’s worked really hard—really, really hard.”
Holliday began walking for the first time since the accident last week and has continued to make progress since suffering his initial brain trauma when his boat collided with one driven by teammate Jamison Crowder on Lake Tillery.
As the Blue Devils continue to push toward their season-opening game against the Golden Panthers, Holliday is never far from his teammates’ thoughts. Instead of wearing their own numbers on the back of their helmets this season, every member of the Duke football team will wear Holliday’s No. 8 in support of their teammate.
“It was tough losing one of your brothers. When we found out that he was pushing along and persevering through it, you get motivated to do better every single day,” redshirt sophomore tackle Takoby Cofield said. “We talk to him every now and then and he’s doing really well. He’s really progressing. It’s a blessing to see that he can keep a smile on his face and that he’s still himself.”
Cofield also said that Holliday’s positive recovery from the accident has helped the Blue Devils to bond closer together as they enter a new season. A trust endowment, the Blair Holliday Recovery Trust, has been established to help his family pay the medical bills.
“[His recovery has] helped to give us a sense of perseverance,” Cofield said. “Nothing is too hard. Nothing can’t be overcome with the right mindset, and I think that’s what Blair has shown us.”
Although Cutcliffe agreed that the accident has bonded the Blue Devils closer together, he does not expect the loss of Holliday to become a rallying point for his team. Moments like these transcend sport, Cutcliffe said.
“Blair is more important than just rallying and giving emotion to the game. It’s a serious consequence and a serious circumstance,” Cutcliffe said. “So he’s in their mind all the time. There’s no question. So I couldn’t use the term ‘rally’ because he is always there.”