IRVING, Texas – DeVonte Holloman's sense of fulfillment of getting to live out his NFL dream outweighed the unfulfilling disappointment that the dream lasted only a year.
The stenosis in the 2013 sixth-round pick's neck will force him to move on from the NFL. The gaps within Holloman's spinal cord in his neck are structurally narrow, and he's at greater risk for a paralyzing hit after sustaining an injury to the C3 and C4 vertebrae.
Holloman said Monday he knew it was a recurrence of the injury that forced him out of seven games last year when he went down against the Ravens last week, but he leaves the NFL feeling fulfilled.
"Of course it was a dream fulfilled," Holloman said. "I got to be out here for a year and play against guys I watched on TV and play with guys that I watched and I learned a lot over this year."
While the injury is devastating, hanging up the cleats is something Holloman's prepared himself for since last year, when the neck injury first popped up.
But frustration naturally seeps through, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the injury.
Holloman slammed his fist down after going down against Baltimore. He didn't need doctors to tell him what he'd done once again to his neck.
"Yeah, my arms locked up when I made contact with the guy. It was scary for me, and just frustrating," Holloman said. "I knew it was the same injury from last year. I was told last year if it happened again, that might be the end. In the back of my mind, I kind of knew what was getting ready to happen, so I had plenty of time to prepare myself."
It was an easy decision for Holloman to leave the game, considering another hit could leave him unable to move at all, but that doesn't make the choice easy to deal with. Holloman said the hardest part of the injury is being functional in everyday life but not being able to play. [embedded_ad]
It's also challenging to see preseason games. As he watched his team in Miami, sitting with his daughter and girlfriend, Holloman felt jittery. It was a strange feeling being unable to play after working all offseason to get ready for the 2014 season.
"It'll be hard, but I'm still rooting for all these guys out here," Holloman said, "and I'm a Cowboys fan for life."
The former South Carolina linebacker said he has a couple options for the next move in his life, though he's not certain what it'll be. One option is coaching and possibly returning to college to work as an assistant. Holloman plans to be at South Carolina's opener this week.
"The Cowboys are doing everything they can to help me out," Holloman said. "I'm actually going back home to see my family now. The guys, from the day that I was out here at practice, the guys treated me like nothing was wrong, like I was still out there with them, so that was a good feeling."