BULLARD — Four years ago, Zach Holladay moved to Bullard from West Texas and after one year, found himself undergoing a coaching change at Bullard High School following a year playing on a winning junior varsity team as a freshman.
Enter new head coach and athletic director Shannon Wilson and the tide of the Bullard football program began to turn around, with a lot of help of the iron-man play of Holladay.
Three years later, Holladay, after being a team captain of that turnaround, capped off a life-long dream on Wednesday afternoon, signing to play football for NCAA D-III national powerhouse Mary Hardin-Baylor of the American Southwest Conference.
MHBU has won the conference title nine of the last ten years and played for one national title in that ten-year stint. MHBU posted a 40-4 record the past four seasons.
Holladay raked in the accolades in his three years of varsity play, making all district for three seasons. This past year alone, Zach was a first-team selection at both tight end and linebacker, while drawing Utility Player of the Year honors in District 16-3A this past season.
Add to that Class 3A all state and all-state academic this season.
Holladay’s timing of signing with the Crusaders may work well to his advantage with the recent graduation of the school’s all-time leading tackler, rover Javicz Jones.
“When I made my visit I really liked the coaches a lot and they are building a brand-new stadium that should be ready for next season,” Holladay said. “They were talking to me about stepping in at rover and maybe getting in the lineup being very possible for me.”
The Crusaders line up in a 4-2-5 alignment. Rover is a linebacker/safety hybrid position that requires both stopping the run and pass coverage.
A head of most in the classroom, Holladay posted a 4.94 GPA on a 5.0 scale. Holladay is leaning toward a degree in nursing-anesthesiology or engineering.
In his three years on the field defensively, Holladay accounted for 353 tackles (158 solo), 27 of those for a loss, 14 forced fumbles, 12 sacks, five forced fumbles and five interceptions from the inside linebacker slot.
He was also a sure-handed, two-time all-district tight end for the Panthers, scoring eight TDs.
“Zach has been a great asset to the team and proof of what hard work in the classroom as well as on the field can do,” Bullard head coach Shannon Wilson said. “He put in the extra work and is going to a great school with a great football tradition and will be playing for my old college coach, Joe George.”
Holladay gave coach Wilson the same respect the coach had shown earlier in the ceremony.
“I would not be here signing today if it were not for coach Wilson,” the Crusader signee said. “He was my position coach at linebacker and we had the opportunity for a lot of one-on-one coaching and he taught me a lot in the film room as well. He has done a great job of turning Bullard football into a program.”
Other schools showing interest in Holladay included a visit to Tulsa University, as well as the new Southwestern University program in Georgetown, Hardin-Simmons, Austin College, Western State, Northwestern State and Western State College in Colorado among others.
Among his favorite times on the field, Holladay had two in particular that stood out.
“My junior year, we got things turned around when we beat Rusk to make the playoffs was one thing I’ll always remember,” Holladay said. “And beating Chapel Hill in double-overtime this year were really big for us and the program.
“Signing to play in college has always been one of my big dreams and I’m really excited about playing in college. My dad played college ball and my parents have always been there for me and I want to thank them, the players and coaches for making this all possible for me today.”
Holladay has also already qualified for the regional power lifting championships in the 181-pound class. Holladay worked his way down to the 181-pound class and will vie for a state finals spot at regionals in Rusk on Thursday, March 9.
Holladay will represent Bullard in the Texas Coaches All-Star football game this summer at the annual coaches meeting and will play in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Bowl of Champions, slated for Rose Stadium in Tyler, on June 15.