MINNEAPOLIS – A year ago at this time, former Wyoming tight end Jacob Hollister was training in Fayetteville, Ark., with his twin brother, Cody, preparing for his NFL Pro Timing Day in Laramie in March. In that time leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, he was hoping for an opportunity to live his dream of playing in the NFL. Now a year later, Hollister is living the ultimate football dream as he prepares with his New England Patriot teammates to play in Super Bowl LII.
“It is crazy. It’s all a dream. It’s been a dream year,” said Hollister on the phone from Minneapolis, Minn., where the Patriots were conducting a media availability session this past Wednesday. “Last year at this time, I was getting ready to go hang out at a friend’s house to watch the Super Bowl and now I’m a part of it. It’s been amazing. It’s such a blessing.”
His dream-like season has also included him being reunited with twin brother Cody, who also signed as a free agent with New England after playing wide receiver at the University of Arkansas for three seasons. Cody was on the Patriots’ practice squad this year, and the brothers were roommates. Prior to accepting scholarship offers to Wyoming and Arkansas the twin brothers won a state title together at Mountain View High School in Bend, Ore., started their college careers as freshmen at the University of Nevada and played one season together at Arizona Western Community College.
“Getting to spend time with my best friend and my biggest support system in him and being on the same NFL team together has really been unbelievable,” said Jacob. “It’s unheard of — pretty cool.”
This weekend’s Super Bowl game will be a reunion for the entire Hollister family.
“My three sisters will be out here tomorrow, and my dad and mom will be coming out. I’m pretty excited,” said Hollister.
While he is excited to have his family coming to attend the Super Bowl on Sunday, Hollister emphasized that his focus is of course on his preparation for the game. With the Patriots making their 10th Super Bowl appearance, Hollister was asked if he could describe the detailed preparation that has gone into their upcoming appearance in this year’s Super Bowl.
“I think in a lot of ways it is the same as we prepare every week,” said Hollister. “We put so much into every game. Obviously, you want to put everything you have into this one because it is the last game of the season and you have so much on the line. There is definitely a lot of time and effort going into this one from all the coaches and players.”
Hollister signed as a free agent with the Patriots on May 5, 2017. In his rookie season, he appeared in 15 of 16 regular-season games and in the Patriots’ playoff games that led to the AFC Championship. He enters the Super Bowl with four receptions for 42 yards this season. He has also contributed on special teams, making four tackles and recovering a fumble. Hollister made his first career start in his first NFL regular-season game in Week 2 at New Orleans. He also caught his first career pass for five yards in that 36-20 win over the Saints. His longest reception of the season came on a 19-yard catch in the third quarter of a Week 3 win over Houston. Hollister’s other receptions were a 13-yard catch in Week 8 in a win over the L.A. Chargers and a five-yard reception in Week 16 in a victory over the Buffalo Bills.
The 2016 Wyoming team captain and First Team All-Mountain West tight end was fortunate enough to land with the defending Super Bowl Champions as a rookie, and he has had the opportunity to play with and learn from some of the best players in the NFL.
“There are so many amazing guys on this team and so many guys who you can look up to and admire,” said Hollister. “The leadership is unbelievable, and that is a big part of why we’ve been successful this year.”
And leading the way among those veterans is of course quarterback Tom Brady, one of the greatest if not the greatest quarterback in NFL history. What is it like to be in the huddle with Brady?
“You have a man who is such an incredible leader. A guy who everyone is so confident in, in the huddle,” said Hollister. “He’s always going to make the right moves and put us in the right place to be successful.”
Asked about some of his greatest memories from his rookie season, Hollister said, “There are so many. Honestly, every win is such an amazing experience to go back to the locker room and to look the guys in their eyes and know how much hard work we put into it. But the AFC Championship win, to share that with the guys was pretty cool.”
One memorable individual moment that he was involved in his rookie season was a key fumble recovery in a road win in Denver. Following a muffed punt by the Broncos’ punt returner, Hollister recovered the fumble at the Denver 24-yard line, which led to New England’s first touchdown of the game on way to a Patriot victory. He was asked if it was special to come back to the Front Range and make an important play to help his team win.
“That was cool. The Denver stadium was pretty awesome,” said Hollister. “Driving by that every time we went to play Air Force or when we traveled down to Denver while I was at Wyoming, it was a special experience to get to play in that stadium in an NFL game.”
Now he is experiencing the two-week lead up to one of the biggest sporting events in the world — Super Bowl LII. With all the hoopla surrounding a Super Bowl, Hollister said his best memory the last couple of weeks has been a simple one — having more time to be around his teammates.
“To follow up the AFC Championship win by getting to spend some time with the guys here in Minneapolis and participate in some of the activities with them has been great,” said Hollister. “You just get to know your teammates a lot better.”
He gave a shout-out on social media to Wyoming fans this past week. Asked what Wyoming fans have meant to him these past several years, Hollister said, “In the time I was at Wyoming and then coming here with the Patriots, I’ve had so many Wyoming fans reach out to me and support me through the years. I can’t tell them enough how much I appreciate it.
“The support that I feel from back there it really is ‘One Wyoming’. We all support each other, and I just really appreciate them.”
Now that he is about to conclude his rookie season by playing in the biggest game any football player can play in, how would he sum up his dream season?
“I think the one word I can use is ‘blessing’. God has blessed me in so many ways — things that I don’t deserve, but he’s been so amazing,” said Hollister. “It has been a learning experience along the way, but being a rookie and coming in and learning from these guys — it’s been awesome.”