Remember Murphy Holloway the Raven? He details his brief football detour post-Ole Miss + coming back to Oxford

Many know Irmo, S.C. native Murphy Holloway as one of the more accomplished players in the history of Ole Miss men’s basketball.

To this day, Holloway is still Ole Miss’ all-time leading rebounder, pulling down 1,093 boards over the span of four years, a total that as of 2023, was the 15th most in SEC history. What he lacked at the free throw line and with height (6-7) for an elite SEC power forward, he more than made up for it with his pure physicality and grit down low.

At the end of his career, he left Ole Miss with one of the program’s best seasons ever. The 2013 Rebels won a program record 27 games, won the SEC Tournament Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 32, having just one possession separating them from the program’s second Sweet Sixteen appearance. When it was all said and done, he owned averages of 14.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game as a senior.

However, upon trying his hand at a professional basketball career, football came calling.

“I was actually on the (Oxford) Square and somebody came up to me from the Baltimore Ravens. I think they were here scouting someone else and he asked if I was me. I said ‘yes sir’ and he talked about watching me play basketball the past couple years. He thought I had the size and frame to play football,” Holloway told Inside the Rebels. “I kind of ignored it for a while and then the Bucs hit me to. I then had a few other teams hit me up. I just said ‘you know what? I’ll give it a shot.'”

Suddenly, he’d be balancing football and basketball workouts simultaneously, both at the professional level.

“I worked with the (football) team here on campus and then I’d go into NBA workouts. I’d be working out for the Knicks, and then I’d be working out for the Jets. It was a hectic time,” Holloway said.

This was an era in which multiple NFL star tight ends like Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham had solid basketball backgrounds.

When the NFL Draft came, Holloway predictably didn’t get selected, but the Ravens called to officially give him a training camp invite. Keep in mind, the last time Holloway played football was as a sophomore at Dutch Fork High School in South Carolina. He was a Swiss Army knife because of his physique.

“You played a little bit of everything when you’re coming up and you’re athletic,” Holloway said. “I was kind of tall, but when I was in 8th grade, I played JV basketball, didn’t play middle school basketball. I caught a growth spurt during that time… 8th grade, I was about 6-5. By 10th grade, I was done growing.”

The NBA Draft was a few months after the NFL Draft, like it is in present day. Going through football workouts may have complicated basketball things on his end, but he was willing to do whatever it took to take care of his young family. After all, if all else failed, he knew he’d succeed overseas.

“Going through the NBA process, the thing that scared them the most was my height for my position. Some guys have done it, but that was a problem too because I didn’t have a great free throw percentage and I didn’t shoot many jump shots, just every now and then. That scored them away, not being a shooter and being undersized. What they liked was the rebounding, motor and toughness. You can’t get that with everybody. But I knew no matter what happens, I’d be a great overseas player, Euro style,” Holloway said.

“I just had a lot of questions going through the NBA workouts. It was also a matter of how serious I was taking it, because I was also entertaining football. I just kept it real with them, saying that I have kids at an early age, I have to do the best thing to take care of them financially. Maybe it could’ve been different if I didn’t entertain football, but I’m happy that it all worked out.”

Eventually, Holloway was cut by the Ravens. Looking back on it though, Holloway realizes the benefit to being a dual-sport athlete balancing football and basketball just in general.

“Football, overall in life, football definitely helps basketball. Every kid should play football and basketball because of the toughness. You can’t run from the toughness playing football. It builds character also. Basketball helps football because it can help with conditioning, playing both offense and defense. You can’t just play one side,” Holloway said.

Over the last decade, Holloway has made a number of overseas basketball stops, before retiring just before Chris Beard was hired at Ole Miss. When that happened, Holloway simply just reached out and wanted to welcome Beard to Oxford and offer his support, before Beard himself offered Holloway an opportunity to come back and help his program out as a graduate manger involved in the day-to-day development of players.

A year later, Holloway earned his certificate in sports administration. However, just because he got that doesn’t mean he’s leaving.

Holloway will continue to be around Oxford for the 2024-25 basketball season. However, his role, while not exactly defined in title yet at the time of writing, will keep him busy regardless.

“Actually taking a different role this year. I’m helping out the guys in any way possible. I go to workouts, help out the bigs, help out the donors, Keith (Carter)… Just being an ambassador for the University of Mississippi. It’s what I love. I’ve done enough to take care of my family, but being an ambassador for the school that gave me a chance and helped be become a grown man, that’s what it’s all about,” Holloway said. “… I didn’t come down to be a GA, but it’s a great learning experience, learning under Coach Beard. It’s more than basketball. You learn to hold yourself accountable. He’s more than a basketball coach. He’s a life coach.

“Coming here as an 18-year-old, they gave me a chance to get a degree. Coach Kennedy gave me the opportunity to become a professional basketball player, but also take care of my family. As  an alum, they’ve welcomed me with open arms. They’ve given all the resources I need once the ball stopped bouncing. Senquez Golson said ‘if you don’t want to come to Ole Miss, don’t take a visit.’ That’s true. You can’t really put into words how special this place is, you just have to feel it. It’s unique. We may lose a game, but we never lose a party. A gathering in Oxford is one of the best.”

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