- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Donald Walter Holleder is a tall, flat-muscled young man with a crew haircut, steady green eyes and a deep dimple in his chin. He has the big hands and feet of an Olympic swimmer but looks and moves more like a high-scoring basketball forward—or maybe an All-America end. Habitually he addresses strangers as "sir," and then his voice is soft and pleasant, built around a modest, almost bashful grin. On occasion, however, it can become clipped and demanding and forceful, which is only part Don Holleder and part the training for the life he has chosen.
Holleder grew up in Rochester, N.Y. But now he lives, along with a lot of other young men wearing crew haircuts, in a big gray building covered with ivy at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point. There he is a first classman, a good student, cadet commander of Company M-2 ("the best company in the corps") and a potential deserter ("I'd like very much to fly for the Air Force when I graduate").
He is also, of course, quarterback of the Army football team.
It is not necessary to know all these things to know about Don Holleder, the football player, but they help. For, like a thousand other seemingly unrelated items which make up a man, they are more or less important in the story of this boy who wanted to be an All-America halfback, became instead one of the nation's finest ends—and then gave it all up for a duty.
And perhaps they are important because to Holleder himself just accepting a challenge and doing his best without complaint in a new and tougher job under tremendous pressure wasn't quite enough. There also had to be a happy ending. Last Saturday, like a story in a very satisfying book, the happy ending came along when Army beat Navy 14-6.
Later, as 100,000 chilled spectators still jammed the exits leading out of Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium, the young man they talked about most was peeled down to the tape on his ankles in a gloomy dressing room under the west stands, telling through battered but grinning lips how it felt to be Army's quarterback on a day when the Cadets beat Navy.
"I'm happier," Don Holleder said, "than I've ever been over any football game I ever played. Uebel and Murtland and Lash and the line"—and he waved at the room full of his teammates—"they were great. I'd ask them to get two yards and they'd get four. We'd need four and they'd get six."
He talked about play selection. "Gosh, I made a lot of mistakes. Particularly there when we nearly scored at the half [see page 22]. The Colonel sent in instructions to pass but there was so much noise and I was so confused I guess I didn't hear real good."
To which Coach Blaik just grinned. "Don't let him kid you," he said. "He heard me all right. He was just showing me who was really running this team."