In the summer of 2009, Holley was the winner of the Michael Irvin-hosted reality show "4th and Long." His reward for outlasting 11 other competitors on the Spike TV program? An invitation to Dallas Cowboys training camps. Once there, Holley made the most of the opportunity; scoring a touchdown in a 2009 preseason game and playing well enough to make the practice squad, where he remained until getting promoted this week.
He's expected to be active in Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings and contribute on special teams.
Irvin is happy for him. He told ESPN:
"He's a hard working guy. Even doing the show, we had guys who did well, but when I was trying to find the right guy, [who] fit the situation, not physically gifted, but fit a situation. The way he practices is always good. That's how he's earned coach [Wade] Phillips' respect. It's not anything I did on the show. I gave him an opportunity, he had to go earn that."
Though the "Cowboys sign reality show star" sounds like a situation ripe for a punchline, Holley's rise to the NFL isn't exactly a rags-to-riches story. It's not Vince Papale in "Invincible" or Rudy getting a sack for Notre Dame.
Holley has a solid, if unspectacular football pedigree. He played college ball at North Carolina, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors as a sophomore. After going undrafted, he played on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad for three months in 2007 and then was on the roster of the CFL's BC Lions for a short time. After getting released there, he signed up to be on Irvin's reality show.
Though he's a rookie who's never played a down in a real NFL game, Holley might be able to give Tony Romo(notes) and Wade Phillips some advice on how to win a championship. In 2005, Holley was a walk-on on the the North Carolina basketball team that won the national title.