Lenoir-Rhyne soccer standout Tom Holland rarely comes off the field and, according to his coach, is the fittest player on the team. Hard to believe that three years ago Holland’s career, and his life, was in jeopardy.
After signing with Lenoir-Rhyne in 2010, Holland – who is from England but who went to high school in Minnesota – was in England taking his physical before heading to Hickory.
Holland’s chest X-rays showed a white spot that doctors eventually determined to be Hodgkin lymphoma.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking when I heard it,” Holland said. “I didn’t know what the future had in store for me.”
Hodgkin lymphoma is cancer of the lymph system, part of the immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic website, advances in diagnosis and treatment of the disease have helped give patients a good chance for a full recovery.
After finding out, Holland called Lenoir-Rhyne’s men’s coach, Tom Gott.
“He actually called me and apologized,” Gott said. “I didn’t care about that, I was just worried about him, but I told him that no matter what happened that he’d have a place at Lenoir-Rhyne.”
Holland started chemotherapy in August 2010 for six months, and in January 2011 was determined to be cancer-free. It was then that he started to work and get back in shape to return to Lenoir-Rhyne in August 2011.
In his freshman season the 6-foot-tall Holland saw action in all but one game for the Bears, but said he felt behind for a lot of the season.
Last season, Holland starred on defense for the Bears, was on the field for 94 percent of team play and was named to the South Atlantic Conference’s first team.
This year, Holland is a valuable player for Gott. He was hurt in the game against Barton in the opening minutes and missed the rest of that game plus the next game against Carson-Newman. In those two games the Bears allowed six goals, while in the other 12 games, with Holland playing every minute, the team has allowed 11 goals.
“He is so important to our team,” Gott said. “He is strong as an ox and excellent both on and off the ball and keeps getting better. When we lost him it made a huge difference.”
Now he’s back and playing midfield for the Bears because they have lost five players to season-ending injuries. Despite the setbacks, the team is over .500 (at 7-6-1). Holland and Gott don’t really talk much about his cancer, but it is something Holland will never forget.
“I’d like to think I appreciate things a lot more,” Holland said. “Coach Gott and my team were great to me and really stuck by me. Just to know I had a place here no matter what really helped me and I can’t thank them enough.”
Matt Kline is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Matt? Email him at Mathew_kline@att.net.
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