Duke's Holliday set for return to class
For the first time since his life-threatening accident in July, Blair Holliday will return to classes at Duke this week.
Holliday, a wide receiver on Duke’s football team before suffering a traumatic brain injury in a personal watercraft accident on July 4, has been reinstated to the university and will take a class in the summer school session that begins on Wednesday.
“We’re excited,” Leslie Holliday, Blair’s mother, said Monday in a phone interview from California. “We appreciate the help and support that Blair is getting from the school. We believe that it’s just another blessing and an opportunity for Blair to really return to a normal life.”
Holliday, who was expected to start at wide receiver for the Blue Devils in 2012, instead fought for his life after the watercraft he was piloting was hit by one being driven by fellow Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder on Lake Tillery in Stanly County.
Holliday nearly died at the scene, but Pitt Community College nursing student Chelsea Gibbons administered CPR and gave Holliday emergency breaths until paramedics arrived.
This past week, Holliday participated in Gibbons’ pinning ceremony as she received her nursing degree.
While receiving treatment for his brain injury at UNC Hospitals, Holliday developed pneumonia that nearly took his life. But he survived and, after a month in Chapel Hill, he recovered enough to transfer to the Shepherd Center, a world-renowned brain injury recovery facility in Atlanta.
Holliday returned to campus for the first time since his accident on Sept. 16 for Duke’s home game with N.C. Central. He participated in the team’s Devil Walk to the stadium and the pregame coin toss.
Holliday attended the rest of Duke’s home game the rest of the season and was on the sidelines in Charlotte when the Blue Devils played Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27. It was Duke’s first postseason bowl game since 1995.
Having taken the fall semester off from classes because of his injuries, Holliday sought reinstatement to Duke for the spring semester but was denied. Instead, he moved to Durham and continued receiving physical and speech therapy at Duke while working in the football office with the video crew.
This week, he finally will return to the classroom. He also plans to take one class in the second session of summer school before a determination is made about whether he will take a full class load in the fall semester.
“We’re kicking the tires,” Leslie Holliday said. “Blair has a lot of work to do.”
In addition to his classes this summer, Blair Holliday will referee intramural basketball games. That’s something he did before his injury. He also plans to help at the summer sports camps that Duke hosts.
Holliday continues to hold out hope that he can resume his playing career one day. Leslie Holliday said Blair is fully aware of the hurdles he must clear — mentally and physically — to do so. She credits her son’s time at the Shepherd Center, where the staff educated him about brain injuries.
Leslie Holliday said Blair has told her he feels physically like he did as a freshman in high school in terms of his football ability, and he is aware that isn’t good enough to play Division I football.
“He wants to work at it, and he wants to play football again,” Leslie Holliday said. “But if he can’t, then he believes that’s what God’s plan is for him.”