ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Game post mortem: Elijah Holyfield’s famous father offered some advice after the Georgia junior was stopped short of the goal line on a 66-yard run last week.
“He said I should have scored,” Holyfield said of tips from his father, former boxing champion Evander Holyfield, after Georgia’s 49-7 win over Middle Tennessee last week. “He said I probably should have just kept running. He said trust your speed.”
Holyfield ran for 100 yards as No. 2 Georgia (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) gained momentum for Saturday night’s game at Missouri.
Holyfield (5-11, 215) resembles his father in his looks and athletic strengths. He’s a physical runner and is tough to bring down, much like his father in the ring.
“He likes contact, and he’s a bowling ball,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart on Monday. “He’s hard to bring down. He’s really tough.”
Last week’s surprise was Holyfield’s explosive speed, including on the long run.
The skills made Holyfield Georgia’s first 100-yard rusher this season. He is the surprise leading rusher in a tailback committee still topped by D’Andre Swift, who did not play after the Bulldogs’ first two possessions last week.
Swift is still listed as the starter on Georgia’s depth chart. Holyfield, who leads Georgia with 200 yards rushing, is bracketed with Brian Herrien as Swift’s top backups.
Smart protected Swift last week so he could give other backs more snaps and said Swift is healthy.
“We expect to be 100 percent at the running back position like we were Saturday,” Smart said.
Holyfield was rewarded for his patience after playing behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel the last two years.
“Coming in, everybody says ‘I want to come in and start’ but the likelihood of coming in and starting over Nick and Sony is kind of slim,” Holyfield said. “So I kind of knew I’d have to wait my time and I’m glad it’s here now.”
Holyfield took notes from Chubb and Michel while waiting for his chance.
“I just learned from the way they worked and how they always move on to the next game,” Holyfield said. “Even after they have a great game, they’re always back in the film room the next day trying to get better. They taught me a lot of skills like that and then certain things to look for when I’m running against a certain defense.”
Smart said after Saturday’s game Holyfield has “a heart of gold” which he shows with his consistent work ethic in practice.
“Every day for him is physical,” Smart said Monday. “There is not a day he goes out there and says ‘I’m taking this day off or I’m not going full speed today.’ He’s not a guy you have to motivate. He loves the game. He practices hard. I think he really likes competition because when he gets thudded by a guy, he always likes to come back and get that guy back.”
Georgia safety J.R. Reed said Holyfield is “probably one of the most physical backs we’ve seen.”
“He’s learned from Nick and Sony on how to practice and he works very hard in practice,” Reed said. “… I definitely think he’s one of the hardest backs in the SEC to bring down.”
Holyfield’s voice rose when he spoke Monday about being tackled at the Middle Tennessee 7 at the end of his 66-yard run.
“I was mad,” he said. “I was very mad I didn’t get it in. It’s OK. I’ll get more opportunities.”
He said his dad, who attended last week’s game, gave him more than just advice on the run.
“He did say he was proud of me,” he said. “He was proud of my performance.”
By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer