KLEE: Feast or fumble, Broncos' Trindon Holliday worth the gamble

By: Paul Klee
August 10, 2013 Updated: August 11, 2013 at 1:58 pm
photo - Denver Broncos wide receiver Trindon Holliday returns a punt 90 yards for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter of an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Denver Broncos wide receiver Trindon Holliday returns a punt 90 yards for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter of an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) 

DENVER - Late Thursday night, his Broncos teammates tripping over TV cables and wet towels in their squished locker room at Candlestick Park, Trindon Holliday escaped.

It's what he does.

Rolling a suitcase, wearing a suit, no tie, Holliday snuck onto the bus before a single media member could ask a dumb question.

Actually, not one tried.

We really need to stop ignoring the little guy.

It's possible the Broncos have never had a player who can impact a game on one play quite like Holliday - in a big way or a bad way.

Here's a prediction: In more than one game during this NFL season, Holliday will be The Reason the Broncos win or lose.

About how many players can you say that?

The allure and the danger of Holliday is the risk-reward factor.

He's either gone, or the football's gone.

In his first season in Denver, Holliday became the first Bronco to return multiple punts and multiple kickoffs for touchdowns. He had four touchdowns on returns.

He had five fumbles on returns.

And here's the question the Broncos will be forced to answer on more than one occasion this season: Are those four touchdowns worth the five fumbles?

Absolutely, I say. You want players that make the other team nervous.

Even if he makes his own team nervous.

"I feel this is going to be a place I can be for a while," Holliday told me.

Hope he's right.

The Broncos are in the entertainment business, and there's not a more entertaining Bronco than the shortest Bronco (ever).

He's the human 470-yard par 5. He's an eagle putt or in the pond.

He's the street burrito outside Sports Authority Field: hits the spot, or hits the head.

He's a back bowl at Vail: the thrill of a lifetime or the spill of a lifetime.

He's booking a hotel on Hotwire, one more tequila shot, doubling down against a 9.

He's the most exciting, and terrifying, player on the roster, all at 5-foot-5, 170 pounds.

He's a really good idea or a really bad idea.

In a dull preseason opener at San Francisco, in which neither team scored an offensive touchdown, Holliday provided the entertainment. It was Trindon to a "T."

On his first kick return, Holliday dodged multiple tacklers for an improbable 30-yard gain.

On his first punt return of the second half, Holliday was blasted on the 2-yard line.

"I just follow my blockers, try to find the hole," he said one day at Dove Valley.

On that day, he fumbled a punt. On that day, he dazzled fans with a deep return.

Put it this way:

His NFL coach puts the game in Holliday's hands when he puts him on punt returns.

His high school wouldn't put Holliday on punt returns.

"He had trouble catching the ball sometimes," Northeast (La.) coach Dave Masterson told me. "But when he did..."

When he does, it's an end-zone dance waiting to happen.

When he doesn't, it's an end-zone fumble waiting to happen.

In the anxious seconds before Holliday catches the kickoff, hopefully, Broncos fans hold their breath tighter than a pair of skinny jeans in San Francisco.

They can exhale only when he's down, or it's a touchdown.

We often criticize Fox for being too conservative.

If putting Holliday on kick returns isn't a gamble, I don't know Las Vegas from Los Angeles.

The last time the Broncos were in the playoffs, Holliday almost won the game by himself.

How quickly we forget.

On that stupid-cold night against the Ravens, Holliday scored the longest kick return for a touchdown (104 yards) and the longest punt return for a touchdown (90 yards) in postseason history. He's the only guy to return a punt and kick for a touchdown in the same playoff game.

Oh, he's watched the tape, once.

"It was very hard to stomach for the first couple days. But you can't dwell on it," he said. "You've got to put it past you and look toward the future. We've got a bright future."

Feast or famine? In the same season, Holliday was cut from an NFL roster and made NFL playoff history. His teams didn't lose a game in the regular season (5-0 with the Texans, 11-0 with the Broncos) and didn't win a game in the postseason (0-1).

I told Trindon that, if the Mile High Mistake had been knocked down, instead of caught by Jacoby Jones, his playoff performance would be the stuff of Broncos legend.

"Maybe," he said.


It is a fascinating case study on the mind of a pro athlete: How does a player view his greatest game - when his team loses?

"How do I look at it?" Holliday said. "I look at it as a start to a new beginning."

Win or loss, Holliday is a Central City dice roll.

Once or more, he will be why the Broncos win or lose.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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