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Jevon Holland remembers quite a bit, actually, from the first eight years of his life he spent in Canada — in Greater Vancouver.
And he sure sounds proud of it.
Holland is regarded by most NFL draft experts as the second-best safety prospect in this year’s incoming class of rookies. He possesses “terrific instincts and ball skills,” according to Rob Rang of Field Level Sports, in Lindy’s draft-preview magazine.
What’s more, Holland is projected as one of the top slot-cornerback (nickel) prospects, too, and is a first-rate punt returner to boot.
Most peg him as a mid-to-late pick in Round 2 for the coming NFL draft, which runs April 29-May 1. Meaning, about 40th to 50th overall.
Holland likely will be the first of possibly 5-6 Canadians drafted. The record for most Canadians taken in a single NFL draft is four.
Holland was born in Coquitlam, B.C. — a city of 140,000 just east of Vancouver proper. He was raised there through Grade 2, when his family relocated to the Oakland, Calif., area. His dad, John Robert Holland, was a CFL defensive back from 1990-97.
Asked Monday during the University of Oregon’s video news conference for pro-day prospects if he considers himself a Canadian-American, rather than just an American, Holland let his red-and-white flag fly.
“Of COURSE I consider myself a Canadian-American,” the 21-year-old said. “I remember a lot of Canada — a whole lot.
“Being a Canadian in the NFL, or in this NFL process, I feel pride to represent Canada. I feel pride to represent where I’m from because I don’t really hear of a lot of people coming out of Coquitlam, B.C., being in the NFL. I feel honoured to be the one to rep the community.”
Who has Holland been training with in his pre-draft prep in Santa Ana, Calif.? Why none other than star Oklahoma State University running back Chuba Hubbard, born and raised in Edmonton.
“Me and Chuba had this conversation,” Holland said. “But being one of the few to rep (Canada), in my eyes, it’s the closest thing I’m going to get to the Olympics … I feel great pride in being that spokesperson for the country.”
He later clarified his mention of the Olympics as follows: Repping Canada in the NFL probably is the closest he’ll ever come to feeling the pride of representing one’s country, athletically, at an Olympics.
Holland played only two seasons of big-time U.S. college football with the Oregon Ducks, from 2018-19, before opting out of last fall’s abbreviated Pac-12 season. (That conference in late September belatedly reversed a peer-pressured, pandemic-prompted summer decision to cancel its 2020 season and hastily arranged to proceed with a truncated, seven-game mini-schedule for November and December.)
Holland’s decision to opt out pleased “only Pac-12 quarterbacks,” Rang of Field Level Media wrote.
For his part, Holland said Monday that not playing in 2020 was “really tough.”
But what he did put on game tape for NFL scouts to evaluate still jumps out and — given his lofty draft stock — obviously has trumped any concerns of staleness, etc.
Holland intercepted nine passes in 27 career games at Oregon, which included just 16 starts. He was a semi-finalist in 2019 for the Thorpe Award (given to the NCAA’s top defensive back). And against Auburn in 2019 he became the first player in 12 years at the NCAA’s top division to have 130 punt-return yards and an interception in the same game.
While he was an impact player for Oregon at safety coming straight out of Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Holland did play some slot corner too — and no less effectively.
Which position does he see himself at in the NFL?
“I guess you could say free safety,” Holland said. “I see my self professionally as a free safety, being in the deep post or what-not. But I am well-equipped — as you’ve seen — to come down and step in the slot and guard tight ends, slot receivers, players like that.”
Draft experts all rave about Holland’s instincts, especially at finding and snaring the football. So why didn’t he play wide receiver instead? Well, the plan was in the cards to do some of that too last season, he said.
“I am a ball hawk by nature. I’m a natural receiver,” he said. “For those that don’t know, I played receiver in high school and got like 1,000 yards.
“I was playing receiver in my senior year of high school, but I was also playing corner … Actually, before the (2020) season got cancelled I was going to end up playing receiver, just because (Oregon head) coach (Mario) Cristobal was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to put you at receiver,’ because he knew the level of talent I have. It would have been nice. Some things are not meant to be reached.”
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