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Whatever happened to Jamelle Holieway?

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71-yard pass play by Holieway vs. the Cornhuskers

One of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time

Growing up in the heart of Sooner country, I remember idolizing a few football players: Tony Dorsett and Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys, and Jamelle Holieway, who quarterbacked the University of Oklahoma to the National Championship at the Orange Bowl in 1986 (according to Wikipedia, the only true freshman to have ever done so -- he still holds this distinction) and to another Orange Bowl win in 1987 (though it was not the championship game that year). To get some idea of Holieway's talent: he had taken over in his freshman season for the injured sophomore starter Troy Aikman, who eventually figured he would never be able to get his starting job back vs. Holieway, and transferred to UCLA (eventually having a Hall of Fame career as quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, winning the Super Bowl three times including once as the MVP).

Holieway was a unique quarterback in his ability to run or throw the ball with equal ease, as his career stats show. In 39 games, he had 2,713 yards rushing and 2,430 yards passing for a combined 5,143 yards of total offense -- averaging over 131 yards/game. He was the first quarterback I'm aware of in the Michael Vick style, where his pure athleticism and the threat that the quarterback would suddenly turn into a running back completely changed the game for the defense. In looking at the history, it appears he paid the price for this scrambling ability -- a couple of leg injuries in his junior and senior seasons hampered the tail end of his college career, and possibly factored into limited success in the pros, with the Oakland Raiders from 1989-1990, and the CFL's BC Lions from 1991-1992.

Finding info on his life after the Sooners is difficult; many sources mispell his name "Holloway" instead of "Holieway," and there is just not a lot info on the internet from those pre-www days. However, it looks like he has worked as a sales rep for an insurance company in Oklahoma -- and unfortunately has been arrested multiple times: in Eufaula, OK in 2007 on marijuana possession, (and possibly DUI since he was apparently driving and smoking at the time), November 2008 in Pontotoc County, OK for driving on a suspended license, and in 2009 in McAlester, OK for petty larceny and outstanding fines and warrants.

The transgressions of the Sooner program at large under Barry Switzer were exposed in a February 1989 article in Sports Illustrated, but it doesn't mention Holieway specifically, who had played his last game by this point (the Citrus Bowl on January 2nd, 1989) -- it focuses much more on his successor, Charles Thompson, who had just been arrested and was eventually convicted for selling cocaine.

Regardless of how his life has gone in the days since his Sooner glory, Jamelle Holieway should always be remembered as one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time.


Terri on January 30, 2018:

He now lives in McAlester, Oklahoma in rent reduced housing, refuses to work to support his wife and kids, along with the at least dozen kids he has with other women, outside his marriage, and lays around telling everyone how great he is because of his brief affiliation with OU. Not an upstanding person any longer. He talks about himself every chance he gets.

E...with no D on July 22, 2016:

Colts 72...Glad we never had to face Holieway at QB...only Ferragamo...and he was a handful...

tank on July 16, 2015:

Banning high great, he was from the low lows ecc 190's. 'Ms. Crooks favorite guy.

Sean Starkey on September 07, 2014:

Jamelle was an amazimg college player. I use his highlight film to inspire a young man that plays on an adult semi pro team that i coach in the bay area. People say he cant play QB...he is from los Angeles like Jamelle and about the same size..well im gona but him in the option bone and I formation and see what people think then.

He is gone be Jamelle part II on this level :-D :-D

R.D.Baker on August 09, 2014:

That great year in '85 I had just moved to the D.C. area after high school.Having spent a lifetime proudly celebrating any accomplishment the Sooners had I so needed that team in order to feel my ties were close,being so far from home.Just to see Coach Switzer in interviews describing this remarkablr young man was awe inspiring.The look in his eyes waxing lyrically about Holloway as only Coach Switzer does still thrills me as if it were yesterday.The Good Lord not gining any

Dr. Bob on May 20, 2014:

Last evening Jamelle came and spoke to a group of our young graduating seniors in Konawa, OK. He has, probably after the shoplifting incident, turned his life over to God, and is working hard to put his past behind him. He freely admitted to making lots of bad decisions, and asked the young people to not make the mistakes he had made. He is working today to give time to young people through sports camps, and speaking to youth groups about his life in an effort to share his past and to try to make their lives better than he made his. He has a lovely young wife who assists him and a beautiful young son. I wish him much success.

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Pharoah on September 01, 2012:

Jamie was the Best. Hands down. It's a shame he didn't get a fair shot in the pros. He is atleast Vicks equal if not better.

Javier on January 08, 2012:

I played with Jamelle back in 1997 here in Spain where I live. For some reason that I do not know, he played some games with a total amateur team (Panteras de Madrid). we played one European Cup Match against the Hamburg Blue Devils, and our coach was James Brooks (former Bengals running back). It was a very nice experience playing football with Jamelle and James! I wish him the best!

arnie on December 26, 2011:

He was by far the best wishbone quarterback every to play the game

john on November 27, 2011:

To me, he is more famous than Brian bosworth. I personally think if he could have gone pro, he would have been one of the best. You're awesome Jamelle.

Eddie M on December 27, 2010:

I met Mr Holieway at a little league baseball game he was very open to speaking and mentoring the kids on the team, which a lot of professional athletes wouldn't take a minute of their time to do! He spent all day with the team and never asked for anything in return! Not many would do the same, so he might have problems but who doesn't thank you Mr Holieway for you're time and professionalism on and off the field!!!!!

cornhusker joe on May 12, 2010:

i agree, jamelle holieway is one of the greatest, most exciting college players of all time. unbelieveable talent, courage and decision making. GO BIG RED!

Jere Jimerson on November 16, 2009:

If you are looking for former OU football greats, go to our website for our new publication.

Jere Jimerson on November 16, 2009:

If you are looking for former OU football greats, go to our website for our new one of a kind magazine, "Former Sooner Greats - Where Are They Now?

Larry Scotet on July 22, 2009:

He was arrested yesterday in McAlister, OK, for shoplifting at Walmart. Classy

Phaktor on December 21, 2008:

Lil Phil on December 17, 2008:

Jamelle is a personal friend of mie and he is currently living in Mcalster, OK, where he works for a home health care business, he is married to a very nice lady her name is Brandi. He attends most of the Oklahoma home games where occasionally you will catch him signing autographs for sooner fans and talking trash to the opposing teams fans. Jamelle is still a larger than life image at Oklahoma, I have seen grown men loose their minds over meeting Jamelle. Just thought I'd help with some info.

Susan on December 12, 2008:

Just FYI Jamelle was in Tulsa today (12-12-08) at the Bob Hurley Ford auto dealership. He seems well and happy.............has a baby due in March. His biggest concern was for his 14 year old autistic son who lives in California. He is to have surgery which will enable him to speak. Please pray that all goes well.

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