Former Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield turned to sprinter Christian Coleman to help him prepare for the scouting combine.
Coleman, the former Our Lady of Mercy and Tennessee track star, is the world record holder in the indoor 60-yard dash.
“Elijah is really explosive and real powerful,” Coleman said. “It was just a matter of getting him to apply that force properly. I think he’s going to improve his draft status when he gets out there and does some of the things we work on.”
Coleman worked on Holyfield on his take-offs and his getting his body under better control at Woodward Academy recently.
“The 40 (yard dash) is just all about getting from point A to point B as fast as you can,” Coleman said. “Football is not necessarily that. Football, you kind of have your center of gravity on top of you.
“You have to be shifty and move sideways and with quick bursts of speed, keep your head on a swivel. There is not a lot of times that you can put your hand down and you’re just running fast for 40 yards.”
The key was to get Holyfield to understand the angles and staying horizontal.
“I had a lot of wasted motion when I was starting,” Holyfield said. “He was trying to clean that up. It was no better advice to get from the fastest man in the world.”
With a good 40-yard dash time, Holyfield could shoot up in the draft. He’s a projected middle-round pick by NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
“Talking to some folks down there in Georgia, they said if you came out to our practice and we told you that there's one kid on the field whose dad was the heavyweight champion of the world, it wouldn't take you 30 seconds to figure out who it is, just with the way he plays,” Jeremiah said.
The target time for running backs is 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to longtime personnel man Gil Brandt.
“We’ll see (on Saturday), but I’m hoping to go pretty fast,” Holyfield said.
Holyfield rushed 159 times for 1,018 yards and scoured seven touchdowns in a breakout junior season. NFL teams also want to see Holyfield catch passes. He caught only seven passes in his career at Georgia.
“I have to go out (Friday) and be smooth with that,” Holyfield said. “I’ve been working on it this whole year coming up into here. So, I’ve been working on it for a long time and even more (over) these last couple of weeks.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn, a noted boxing aficionado, looks forward to Holyfield’s workout.
“I think it’s going to be a fast group,” Quinn said of the running backs. “For sure, looking at (Holyfield’s) tape, he’s going to be hauling ass. There is going to be some low times and based on his background, I would say that he’s going to be someone that’s going to be one of the faster ones here.”
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff believes Holyfield projects well into he NFL.
“He’s got versatility,” Dimitroff said. “I think he runs hard and is a tough kid. Even the little bit of time when I used to seem him when he was down at Woodward (Academy). It’s been fun to watch him evolve. He’s obvious a big kid who can run well.”
Holyfield said he participated in boxing from ages 8 to 13, but his passion was playing football. His father, Evander Holyfield, gave him his blessings.
“He has a lot of things that we been through growing up that has prepared me for days like this,” Holyfield said. “I hope I learned them along the way.”
He believes his running style translates well into the NFL.
“I would say a lot of times I like to run angry and physical,” Holyfield said. “But I also have a little finesse to it, too.”
Holyfield, who had to wait behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, is relatively fresh going into the NFL. He had only six carries as a freshman in 2016 and 50 as a sophomore in 2017.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to sit behind some pretty good guys,” Holyfield said. “I learned a lot from them while I was watching them. I’ve been taught a lot of things. I feel that I’m advanced as far as my football IQ.”
Holyfield has good vision and knows how to use his cut-back lanes.
“It’s really kind of a timing thing,” Holyfield said. “I press the line and I kind of see them out there. They say corners don’t like to tackle, so I like my chances a lot of the times. Most of the time when I bounce it outside I have a pretty good chance because there is only one person out there left.”
He could have returned to Georgia for another year.
“I came off a really good season,” Holyfield said. “I’m fresh. I’ve never been hurt before. I’m still young and everything like that. Running backs have short shelf life. So, I thought it was the best thing for me.”
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