Oct. 1, 2004
By Ken Kleppel
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” —Psalm 118:22
“Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you so envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” –Matthew 20:14-16
Carlyle Holiday’s first impression on his fan base was a good one–and served as a sign of what would lie ahead.
A classmate’s parent approached Holiday–then in middle school–and his father Glendale, and asked the younger Holiday for an autograph. Holiday cordially obliged as his proud father looked on.
“She said `you are so respectful and so disciplined, I want to get your autograph because later on in life I know you are going to be something,'” remembered Glendale Holiday.
With each class, practice, and game, this woman’s remarkably clairvoyant prediction comes to life. His father and family still by his side as a fifth-year senior, Holiday has provided the most valuable of Notre Dame stories–one that extols the lessons of perseverance and pride and features faith, family, and community; one that certainly does not begin with a quarterback controversy that started a career nor a quarterback controversy that seemed at first to end it.
“People learned that I am an unselfish guy and I would probably do whatever I can to help this team win,” says Holiday. “Regardless of what you may think I may do, you cannot judge a book by its cover. I am able to adapt to certain situations that people probably thought I would not be able to adapt to.”
Holiday has done just that. As the son of Glendale and Mary, Carlyle would simply have no other choice than to overcome those challenges presented before him and succeed.
“I required the same thing out of everybody–hard work.” says Glendale Holiday. “We started teaching them what to do, how to maintain focus and how to get ahead.”
For all the ups and the downs over the course of the most unique of football careers Holiday has fittingly stayed the course.
He learned the game of football atop mounds of snow in the frigid weather of Fairbanks, Alaska, but perfected his play under the bright high school lights of sweltering San Antonio, Texas.
As the youngest of the Holiday brothers he was more often than not on the receiving end of roughhousing during full contact scrimmages in the family backyard and went on to join his brothers in receiving scholarships to Division I schools.
He moved from El Paso to Germany to Alaska and back to Texas before reaching the seventh grade, but embarked on a collegiate career in the heartland of northern Indiana.
He failed to play one inning of collegiate baseball, but was selected in the 44th round of the 2003 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
He failed to play one minute of collegiate basketball, but each spring competed through the quarterfinal round of the Bookstore Basketball Tournament and won the championship during his sophomore year.
He worked closely with the South Bend community by participating in the Tackle the Arts program, the Boys and Girls Club of South Bend, and Take Ten, among a host of others, but assumed no credit for the success of the children and persons that he inspires.
He was recruited as an option quarterback to operated former head coach Bob Davie’s spread offense, but adjusted styles to spearhead head coach Tyrone Willingham’s debut of a pro-style west coast offense .
He quarterbacked the team through off-field turmoil before leading an on-field return to glory.
He heard the boo birds in September at Notre Dame Stadium, but received the loudest and longest lasting standing ovation in November at the Senior Day Pep Rally in the Joyce Center.
And like a fighting champion, Holiday kept battling away, absorbing a strong right cross from the media, a counter jab from a minority of Notre Dame nation, and a vicious uppercut from a superficial sense of expectations.
Entering the fifth and final round, Holiday continues to firmly stand on his own, carrying with him a swagger which reveals that the best may yet come and an inner confidence that he truly understands the impact of the University on his life and perhaps vice versa.
“Notre Dame means everything,” says Holiday. “It is where I started to develop as a man and is the place where I met all my friends. I will never leave this place in the way that people may think I will leave it. I owe everything I am right now to most of the Notre Dame community.”
He has a degree from the Mendoza College of Business in Marketing as proof, walking off the stage at the Joyce Center with a college diploma in hand this past May. In so doing, he discovered that the satisfaction of earning a degree lasts much longer than the cheering of Saturday afternoons.
“[Graduation] is probably the greatest thing to happen to me so far,” says Holiday. “The amount of applause and handshakes I received during that day was amazing. My parents were happy for me. People I did not even know were happy for me.”
Holiday has received the cheers on game day as well. The leader among all Irish offensive starters in terms of games played, games started, and career minutes, Holiday holds at least a share of the Notre Dame record for touchdown passes in a game, attempted passes without an interception, and 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback.
Today his job is to refine route running and guide young receivers while competing for playing time as wide receiver and attempting to thrive in his new role. Holiday has already provided an instant spark to the Irish special teams, assuming punt return duties against Michigan, Michigan State, and Washington.
“When I am on the field I am a competitor,” says Holiday. “I go out and try to dominate everything I do. I get another bolt of energy that hits me when I am on the field. I am so excited that I just want to go out and win. I am like that on the field and in doing whatever I do.”
Holiday’s advice to this year’s class of freshman quarterbacks:
“Get into the playbook,” says Holiday. “I told them your opportunity will come, but you will never know when it is. My freshman year, Matt LoVecchio was thrown into a role when we didn’t even know anything happened to Arnaz Battle. Any situation can happen, they just need to be ready.”
Holiday has proven ready time and again. His father’s “18-90 Rule” guaranteed it.
“I expected a diploma from everybody in this house by the time they turned eighteen years old–no exceptions,” says Glendale Holiday. “After that you had ninety days–from June until September–to figure out what to do in life. Out of my five children, all were gone from the house within thirty days.”
Glendale likes to joke that his children were eager to leave home because of his strict style of parenting. But it was exactly that style which gave each the opportunity to do so.
True to form as a master sergeant in the United States Army, Glendale maintained discipline as the driving force of the family. Expecting respect and education from their children, Glendale and Mary Holiday helped pave the way for the success of each of the five in college and in life.
“I am the strong one with the law,” says Glendale. “If you need to get to me you go through momma.”
“Being as disciplined as he is, not only me, but my bothers and sister all learned so much from him,” adds Carlyle. “That is one of the main reasons why I am here today at Notre Dame. He was strict when we were little, did not allow us to get in trouble, made sure our beds were made, and those other things that they do in the military. We grew up with that and the results are what we are today.”
Like his father, Holiday–a quiet leader on the gridiron–leads by example away from it.
Each time he was questioned, Holiday answered. Each time he was doubted, Holiday persevered. Each time with little or no fanfare.
“He has a good set of family and he has good morals,” says Glendale Holiday. “The best thing about him is that he has been through situations where he knew how to handle things that did not go as expected.”
The son of a soldier has become a cornerstone of a program–with his will and not his might; with his wisdom and not his sword, and by his family and not his fear.
He has been first, he has been last, but through it all Carlyle Holiday has served as an inspiring example.
This final impression is not so much different than the first.