During his rookie season, cornerback Josh Holsey leaned on veteran DeAngelo Hall for advice and mentoring as the seventh-round draft pick made an impact on special teams.
Throughout training camp, it wasn't uncommon to see rookie cornerback Josh Holsey standing beside veteran DeAngelo Hall, listening more than chatting, trying to glean as much information as he could.
It seemed to help. Holsey, the Redskins' seventh-round draft pick from Auburn last season, made the team's 53-man roster and was active for the final 12 games of the season, assisting primarily on special teams and occasionally jumping into the defense during nickel and dime packages.
"I tried to learn as much from D-Hall as possible when he was on the sideline with us," Holsey said. "He knows the game in and out, for a guy to be in the league for 14 years, that's incredible. I tip my hat off to him. It was a great honor even to just be beside him each and every day. I probably asked more questions than anybody when it comes to D-Hall. I just wanted to know what's it's like, 14 years. That's a long time. He was playing when I was a baby. I want to know what he's doing, you know what I mean?"
Until the midway point of the season, Hall was still on the team's PUP list and so his mentoring role was more pronounced. Holsey benefited mostly by learning about ways to preserve his body for an entire season.
Having undergone surgery for two separate ACL injuries during his career at Auburn, the cornerback has a much more nuanced perspective when it comes to staying healthy and what it meant to be available for the entirety of his first year in the NFL.
"Everybody kept talking about like that little rookie wall that the rookies usually hit around like Week 9, 10. I didn't really hit that wall," Holsey said. "I'm really proud of myself about that, even just making it through my first season. I've been through a lot through college, two ACL's. A lot of people didn't even think I'd be in this position. Just for me to even be in this position, for me, is just a blessing for me."
Holsey was one of several young defensive backs the team is hoping to build around in the coming years. The young corner finished with two tackles on just nine defensive snaps while playing a more integral role on special teams, where he played in 229 snaps, well more than half of the total.
Along with fellow rookie cornerback Fabian Moreau and rookie safety Montae Nicholson, both of whom began training camp late due to injuries sustained in college, Holsey is excited for the way the secondary will shape up next season – especially considering the team will have Josh Norman, Kendall Fuller, Quinton Dunbar and D.J. Swearinger all returning.
"We've got a very deep secondary right now," Holsey said. "You've just got to wait your turn, you know what I mean? You can't push it, you've just got to be ready when your name gets called. That's what I'm going to do this offseason, I'm going to make sure I'm prepared, make sure my body is in tip-top shape so that when I come back, I'll be ready to compete for a spot. You can't ever drop off, you've got to always get better. I'm just going to try to come back next year better than I was this first year."
Holsey admitted he had reality checks on a few plays, pinching himself when he realized he was playing defense against quarterbacks such as Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers.
"It's just kind of one of those shocks, but you get over it," Holsey said. "I think next year I'll be past it by then."
As for preparations for his sophomore season, Holsey has been using this month to rest his body – more sound advice he took from Hall before he left the team facility.
"He said people do too much in the offseason, you can't do too much," Holsey said. "You've got to know when to go hard and when to relax your body, because it's a long grind. It's been a long grind, so he just kind of told me how to manage when to go hard, when to give my body some rest, stuff like that."
Hall's future is uncertain. He enters free agency with the option to continue playing, but has indicated he may move on to a new venture – perhaps joining a team's front office. Regardless, Holsey is grateful for the year he's spent alongside him, ready to take the next step of his career.
"We've just got to come back next year with open minds and a new frame of mind set with everybody ready to work towards that same gold to keep getting better each and every week," Holsey said.