Carroll County’s basketball team scored one of their biggest victories of the season Tuesday night against Oak Hill Red, but it was football that made the biggest news of the night.
Minutes after the Cavaliers rallied for a 59-51 win over the Warriors, senior offensive tackle Lucas Holder, also a center on the basketball team, verbally committed to play football at Liberty University. Holder gave his commitment in person to Liberty head coach Turner Gill, who was in attendance with his assistant head coach, Carl Torbush.
“I walked over to Coach Gill and hugged him, and he saw the (Liberty) hat I was wearing,” Holder said. “And I told him, ‘I am coming to school next year,’ and he wrapped his arms around me and he said, ‘Good. We are glad to have you on board.’ It is a great feeling. It is good to be over. It was a fun process, but I am glad I finally have closure.”
Certainly, it has been a long recruiting process for the 6-6, 270-pound offensive tackle. An All-Region IV first-team selection and an All-Group AA second-team pick by the Virginia High School Coaches Association, Holder drew interest from a number of colleges, including a handful of ACC schools. An official visit to Liberty the Jan. 26-27 weekend sold him on his decision, however.
“The people there, from the coaches to the students, everyone will always lend an extra hand. Everyone is extra nice to people so it really sold it for me. They were just Class A, Grade A people,” Holder said. “If my kids had to sign with somebody, it’s someone I would want them to be with. I didn’t see them as coaches. I went into Coach Gill’s home and saw them all as fathers and husbands. They were just great men. That was the thing I love and respect about all of them.”
In December of 2012, Holder was one of about 100 high school seniors chosen to play in the NUC All-American North-South Senior Game in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He also helped pave the way for quarterback Connor Lundy to set a school record for passing yards in a season with 1,723 in 2012.
At Liberty, Holder will have the chance to play for some highly-regarded coaches. Gill, who went 28-2 as the starting quarterback for Nebraska in the early 1980s, quickly made a name for himself in the coaching ranks for turning the University of Buffalo from one of the worst programs in college football into the Mid American Conference champions in 2008. After a two-year stint as head coach at Kansas University, Gill took over as Liberty’s head coach in December of 2011.
Torbush also brings an impressive resume to Liberty, having served three years as the head coach at the University of North Carolina from 1998-2000. He has also coached at Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Baylor, among other schools.
“Regardless of their coaching accolades, they are just great people,” Holder said. “It is good to be around good, wholesome people and that is the thing that stuck out to me. That is what I want to surround myself with.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Liberty is highly regarded both academically and athletically. The Flames have won five of the past six Big South Conference football championships and are eyeing a move to big-time Division I football in the near future.
“They are expanding the stadium right now. It holds about 20,000 and by my sophomore year it will hold 35,000,” Holder said. “They have the biggest football-only weight room in the country and they have one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the country. He bench pressed 805 pounds. And it’s a big deal for me because this is what I have been working for since I was probably 14 years old.”
Ironically, Holder first caught the eye of Liberty’s coaches while they were scouting another player, Martinsville’s Larry Perkins, a 6-5 defensive end that made the All-Timesland team this past season.
“They came and watched me at Homecoming, but they didn’t come to watch me. They came to watch the Perkins kid from Martinsville,” Holder said. “By the end of the game, Coach (Dennis) Wagner told me he was watching him because he was on me the whole night and he only had two tackles the whole game. I shut him down and Wagner called our coaches and told them he wanted me down for a visit.”
Since that time, Holder has built a special relationship with Wagner, his position coach.
“He is a great guy,” Holder said. “Three of his former players just played in the Pro Bowl and he has coached over 25 NFL players. It’s just a great place to be and to develop, not only as an athlete, but also academically and spiritually. They develop you as a person, helping you become a better man, not only in football, but by becoming a better person while doing it.”
Holder said he plans to send in his national letter of intent to Liberty on Feb. 6, National Signing Day.