Hollingsworth leads by example

Towson defensive end leaves `rah-rah' to others

September 15, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

When the right moment arrives, Andrew Hollingsworth becomes a patriot for the cause of Towson football. Otherwise, the senior defensive end runs calm and lets others do the flag-waving.

"My take on the whole rah-rah type of person is that anyone can be excited during a practice and say, `yeah, let's go,' " said Hollingsworth, whose 2-0 team hosts Morgan State (0-1) tomorrow at 1 p.m.

"But when your back's against the wall," he asked recently, "where are those rah-rah guys then?"

The one time Hollingsworth remembers going into Knute Rockne mode on his defensive teammates last year, Lehigh scored the winning touchdown anyway.

Besides, Towson needs less inspiration these days, and the man known as "Hog" is one reason why. A pass-rushing machine the past two seasons, he only got the attention in 1999, when the Tigers had their best record (7-4) since 1994.

Preseason honors arrived as a result of two straight 10-sack seasons. Everyone had the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder picked for All-America teams. He wasn't going to get too excited about that either.

"The preseason accolades don't mean anything... it's for what people expect you to do, not for what you've done," said Hollingsworth. "At the same time, I have an expectation to live up to."

Growing up in Northern Virginia as a Red Sox fan - devout enough to disown Wade Boggs when he went to the Yankees - Hollingsworth wanted to be a baseball player. He was goaded into football before his sophomore year at Annandale High School, and was drawing interest from colleges in both sports by the time he chose Towson in 1996.

At "200 pounds, soaking wet," Hollingsworth knew linebacker was for him, putting space between himself and larger offensive linemen as he rushed the passer.

Instead, Towson coach Gordy Combs anticipated that he would gain weight to go along with his quick first step and installed him at defensive end, where his contribution increased with his weight - from 205 in 1997 to his current 230.

The emergence as a first-tier defensive lineman in Division I-AA made it impossible for Combs to grant Hollingsworth's wish for a position change.

"He's asked me numerous times to move him to linebacker," Combs said. "He's so valuable to us where he is, so I don't bring it up."

Combs said Hollingsworth's sack totals would have been higher in 1999 if he had not been playing the more difficult front-end side. He did that to provide a berth for an inexperienced player, Nick Bailey, whose development permitted a move back to the open-end side and better opportunities at rushing the passer.

The move has paid off. Hollingsworth has two sacks in each of the first two games, anchoring a line that is probably the strongest group on the team.

In addition to the sacks, he also managed to force several hurries, and in the Fordham game, the quarterback committed two intentional grounding penalties.

"A lot of times, he doesn't have to put a move on the guy, he just runs right by them," teammate and defensive tackle John Devoti said. "He's just a good player, that's the bottom line. Everything that everyone's saying about him is true."

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