Former NFL player works through disabilitiesWritten by Nicholas Huenefeld | | email@example.com
Brian Holloway grew up knowing he was wired differently.
“I just knew that I didn’t quite fit in, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on,” he said. “Then, I discovered if I had music on or if I was in a loud room with something else going on, it would help. It allowed me in a strange way to focus.”
Holloway, who grew up with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, said he learned ways to improve — on his way to graduating with honors from high school and Stanford — where he received an academic and athletic scholarship. He played in the NFL with the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders from 1981 through 1989. He was the captain of the 1985 Patriots Super Bowl team.
Holloway was in Toledo on May 21 as the keynote speaker for Celebrating Recovery, a Neighborhood Properties Inc. event that honored two people who have overcame addictions or mental illnesses, as well as three people who have done great things in the field of mental illness.
“The most important thing for someone who is struggling with a mental illness is to look at your diet,” Holloway said.
In addition, he said that if you’re eating a bunch of carbs, candy or sugar, you should start eating vegetables, while also beginning some level of exercise every day.
“If you do those three things, it will make a huge difference,” he said. “Then, look for ways you can start setting goals so you can put structure in your life, so you don’t spend all your time spinning in this wheel of despair, anxiousness, depression, fear or confusion.”
Holloway, struggled through elementary school, but started turning it around in high school.
“For me to understand what was really going on, I had to read a page three times and take notes. After I finished reading, I had to study the notes and read it again. Can you imagine the volume? At Stanford, I had to read 800 pages a day. Now that I know more and understand more, it would have been a great help to me if I had some strategies back then that I know now.”
He said reading the 800 pages a day gave him the greatest single feeling of satisfaction in his life because, at that moment, he felt nothing could stop him.
His fourth-grade teacher once told him: “you will never, ever win. You’re going to have to accept the fact that some people are just born stupid. You are not school material.”
It was then that Holloway reached what he called his “inspirational disgust.”
“It’s the point where you say, ‘I’ve had enough.’ It’s the point where you reach out and get some help and tell yourself, ‘I’m not going to do this alone. I’ve got to change because if I don’t, this is what’s going to happen.’”
Holloway said he was fortunate enough to grow up with a structured environment in sports, where he competed in track and football.
“It played a big part in the structure, support, motivation and encouragement, which is very influential for anyone to succeed and for anyone who thinks differently, is diagnosed differently or anyone who is mentally ill.”
Holloway encourages people to use medicine as a last resort.
“Before I would ever encourage anyone to get medication, I would get the support group, the psychologists, the psychiatric evaluation,” he said. “I think the first and most simple thing you do is take a look at your diet, nutrition and exercise. It can make an amazing difference. You don’t have to be an athlete [to make those changes].”
Holloway graduated from Stanford with a degree in economics and communication. He helped write the free agency agreement in the NFL. He is now a specialist consultant in corporate development.
He is hired by Fortune 500 companies that are going through a change or transformation. He goes in and studies their business models and helps them rebuild, or helps them “drive the change”
“Put it this way,” he said. “The stuff I do this week, you’ll read about in the Wall Street Journal in three to four months.”
Another thing Holloway is good at is family. He has eight kids with his wife, Tammy, of 27 years.
“My wife likes me, and I like her,” he said with a smile.
Holloway said if anyone has questions for him, visit his Web site, www.brianholloway.com.
Celebrating Recovery, a May 21 Neighborhood Properties Inc. event, honored two people who have overcame addictions or mental illnesses, as well as three people who work in the field of mental illness.
- Betty Wilson, program manager, Hope for Families at St. Vincent Medical Center.
- Erin Thompson, public affairs specialist, Social Security Administration in Toledo.
- Theresa Butler, clinical supervisor at Unison Behavioral Health Group.
- Monica Allison, Owens Community College student, who overcame a crack addiction and prison.
- Larry Wanucha, NPI housing support specialist, who discussed living with schizophrenia, while being an artist, advocate and case manager.