Earning His Dream: hard work has Alexander Hollins set to take the big stage Saturday

By JOFFRE WASHINGTON,

They say practice makes perfect. If you want to be good at anything you have to practice, practice some more and, oh yeah….practice even more.

That message, which has been in Yazoo City native Alexander Hollins’ mind ever since he picked up a football as a youth, has led him to the biggest stage football has to offer: the NFL.

So when the Minnesota Vikings take the field this Saturday at 3:35 p.m. against the San Francisco 49ers, Hollins will be jumping at the chance to show the world what he can do.

The Vikings advanced to the Divisional Playoffs after defeating the New Orleans Saints last weekend in a game where Hollins was oh-so close to creating his first Sportscenter highlight.

Late in the second half, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins dropped back and lofted a pass down the middle that appeared destined to be caught by Hollins and possibly taken in for a score. New Orleans cornerback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson got a piece of the ball, however, and Hollins couldn’t corral it as the two fell to the ground.

“That ball that was thrown to me was a jump ball to where the corner wasn’t able to get it, but he played through my hands and knocked it out,” said Hollins. “It’s a play that I have to make and a play my teammates and coaches expect me to make. Next game I have to make plays because it’s a do or die situation [and I] can’t leave those plays out there. I have to execute.”

True words spoken from a humble young man who turns to his disciplined roots when adversity strikes. Hollins developed a strong work ethic as a kid, and it was that work ethic that landed him a spot on his high school football team at Yazoo City High. After transferring a few miles down the road to Yazoo County HS, he continued to show the benefits of practice and hard work as he became one of the top wide receivers in the state and was named the Yazoo Herald Boy’s Athlete of the Year.

After graduation, Hollins attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson and after two stellar seasons, he received a scholarship to conclude his career at Eastern Illinois University.

During his senior year at EIU, Hollins quickly became a known commodity among NFL scouts and talent evaluators. After posting a 1,102 yard, 80 reception season, Hollins was named First Team All-Ohio Valley Conference and earned First Team All-American honors.

On the eve of the NFL draft, Hollins was hopeful that he would hear his name called as one of the young men whose life was about to be changed forever. However, he never heard his name called so what was he to do now, give up?

Not Alexander Hollins.

That’s not in his DNA.

Summoning the hard working lessons of his youth, Hollins did the only thing he knew to do. He continued to practice and put in work.

He studied film. He worked on his footwork. He worked on his speed. He hit the weight room and became stronger. He spent hours fine-tuning his route-running ability until it was flawless.

He did all these things because he knew his dream was not extinguished on draft night.

So when the Vikings contacted him in May of 2019 informing him that they were interested in signing him to a free agent contract, Hollins was ready.

When he arrived in Minnesota it didn't take the Viking coaches and staff long before they saw something in Hollins. Cracking the Vikings wideout group was going to be a tall task as the Vikings have one of the best wide receiver units in all of football led by All-Pro receiver Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. But there was just something about Hollins that intrigued the Vikings brass.

Hollins lasted all the way until the final cuts in August, but he was resigned to the practice squad in September and finally placed on the active roster a few months later.

“Everything will not happen the time you want it to happen,” Hollins said. “If it’s meant for you it’ll come to you. I worked hard to be here, and the things that got me here I’m going to continue to do. Giving it my all every day and trusting and believing in God’s timing because his timing is always on time.”

The time was almost right last Saturday against the Saints and even though he didn’t complete that catch, it showed the incredible amount of trust and faith Cousins and the Minnesota coaches have in him to even target a rookie, free agent receiver at such a critical time in the game.

“Yeah, they do trust me a lot now, and they know what I’m capable of,” said Hollins. “It felt great to get that win against them. Getting that win was big for us. We’re just going to get ready and prepare for the 49ers and take that positive energy and use it against them.”

The Vikings may have to trust Hollins more than ever this weekend as Theilen (ankle injury) and Diggs (illness) have both been limited in practice this week. If that’s the case, whenever Hollins’ number is called again, there’s no doubt he’ll be ready make a play.

He’s been practicing all his life for that moment.