Shelby High junior linebacker Jack Hollifield, who turns 17 in two weeks, always hoped he could become a major college recruit.
But when he saw his brother, Dax Hollifield, become a two-time All-American at his school, Jack began to seriously believe he could do it.
“I really felt I’ve been good my whole life,” Jack said after a hot Wednesday practice. “But I saw (Dax) getting so much attention and notoriety in high school and I felt I could do that same thing because I thought I could be better than him.”
Two years ago, as a senior, Dax ran up 150 tackles, eight sacks and was one of six finalists for the U.S. Army national player of the year award.
As a freshman at Virginia Tech last season, Dax started six games, played in 13 and had 62 tackles. Jack feels his big brother is on his way to big things in the ACC.
“He is always working to get better,” Jack said. “I know he made me better, for sure. When we were younger, we competed in everything we did.”
And he means everything.
It was about who could run faster, lift more. Who was better in basketball. And they definitely couldn’t agree on teams.
Dax liked LeBron.
Jack like Kobe.
Dax liked Tom Brady and Patriots. Jack was a fan of Cam Newton and the Panthers.
“We fought a lot. We hated each other’s teams,” Jack said with a laugh, “but he taught me you have to work hard and compete for everything.”
Dax is 6-foot-1, 232 pounds. Jack is a little bigger, at 6-3, 225. Aubrey Hollifield, the boys’ father, said Dax is a prototypical linebacker, bred to play that position.
Jack is a little different.
“Jack can do anything,” said Aubrey, a football assistant and head boys basketball coach at Shelby. “We can put Jack at any position on the field and he can probably play it.”
Jack played defensive lineman as a freshman. Last season, he moved to linebacker and had 137 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore. This year, Shelby coaches plan to play Jack at fullback, tight end, defensive line and linebacker.
College coaches seem to like his versatility. Jack already has a dozen college offers from schools such as N.C. State, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Tennessee. 247Sports ranks him among the top 150 players nationally in the class of 2021, regardless of position, and the No. 5 recruit as an inside linebacker.
Virginia Tech has also offered and although his big brother plays for the Hokies, Jack said it doesn’t make it a certainty he will go there, too.
“I couldn’t tell you right now where I’m going to sign,” Jack said. “It could possibly be Virginia Tech. Everybody thinks Virginia Tech because of Dax, but I’m making the decision for me. Dax says to make the best decision for you, where you can play early. He doesn’t care if it’s Virginia Tech, UNC or Tennessee.”
Dax waited until February of his senior year to pick Virginia Tech. Jack remembers watching his brother agonize over the decision, saying Dax was still considering Stanford and Clemson until the moment he announced his choice publicly.
“I don’t know if I want to wait like Dax,” Jack said. “It put so much stress on him. I feel I want to do it before signing day.”
But before all that, Jack has a few more goals to accomplish in high school.
Shelby has won five state titles in six seasons. This year, the Golden Lions return 13 starters and 35 lettermen from a 2018 championship team. Among those starters is quarterback Isaiah Bess, who threw for more than 4,000 yards last season.
With all that firepower, Jack said he can’t for the season to start. He thinks big things are possible.
“I really want to go undefeated the next two seasons, win two state championships,” he said. “This year, we’ve got a lot of people returning and we’re way more mature. We really feel we can win state again.”
The top 10 recruits in N.C.’s junior class
Here is the Observer’s list of the top 10 statewide recruits in the N.C. class of 2021, which includes Shelby High linebacker Jack Hollifield
|1.||Peyton Page||Greensboro Dudley||DT||6-4||315||undecided|
|4.||Drake Maye||Myers Park||QB||6-5||210||Alabama|
|6.||Micah Crowell||East Forsyth||WR||6-2||205||undecided|
|9.||Jahvaree Ritzie||Kernersville Glenn||DE||6-4||265||undecided|
|10.||Gabe Stephens||Mountain Island Charter||ATH||6-3||195||undecided|