Around this time three years ago, Blair Holliday was fighting for his life in a North Carolina after sustaining serious and significant injuries in a jet ski accident. This week, the Duke football senior is on the receiving end of a prestigious national honor.
The National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) has announced that Holliday is one of six recipients of the 2015 Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award. The award, named in honor of the woman who overcame the effects of childhood polio to become an Olympic gold medalist, is given annually to “those who have overcome great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics.”
Holliday was the only college football player honored this year.
Slated to be a starting wide receiver for the Blue Devils in 2012, Holliday instead saw his playing career come to an end after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a personal watercraft accident on the Fourth of July that year. Holliday was in a coma for the initial stretch of what turned out to be a month-long hospital stay.
He then was transferred to a rehab facility in Atlanta, where he was forced to relearn such tasks as talking and walking.
“It literally went from how we were going to prepare for a funeral to him opening his eyes,” head coach David Cutcliffe said in quotes distributed by the school. “I was nervous when I went to the Shepherd Center because I didn’t know what to expect. I left there with great hope that Blair was willing to do what it took to make the progress he needed to make.”
While his playing career ended, he began a new chapter of his football life by becoming an undergraduate assistant coach on Cutcliffe’s staff. 2015 will mark Holliday’s third season in that capacity.
(Photo credit: Duke athletics)