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April 27, 2012
It did not take long for Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Marshall outside linebacker Deon Hollins Jr. to realize how big the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge was going to be after he received his invitation to the camp.
According to the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder it only took him one look at the other players who were already registered to attend to make up his mind.
"I went and looked to make sure it was something I wanted to do," he said. "When I saw the first three names there wasn't a doubt in my mind that I had to be there, too."
Bigelow is a defensive end and the No. 6 overall player in the country from Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy; Swoopes is the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback from Whitewright (Texas) High; and Davis checks in as the No. 14 cornerback in the country from Bastrop (Texas) High.
Hollins is the No. 14 outside linebacker in the country and a UCLA commit. He said that just being invited to the camp was mind-blowing but that just showing up was not going to be good enough for him.
"Every camp I go to I want to get my reps against the best player there," he said. "I want to do anything I can to show people that I can do it."
There are few that doubt the talent that Hollins can bring to the table - his 27 major college football offers would indicate as much - but he says he plays as though he is always trying to prove people wrong.
Hollins has played mostly defensive end for his high school team but projects as a linebacker in college and has been making the transition to his new position.
His hybrid role as a hand-down pass rusher as well as a stand-up linebacker is something he embraces and a skill set he is trying to showcase.
"I envision myself as a Von Miller-type player," he said. "Talentwise I can match myself up against anyone."
Miller was a 6-foot-3, 210-player at DeSoto (Texas) High before staring at Texas A&M and later the Denver Broncos.
Each share 4.5 speed in the 40, and Hollins thinks that is an advantage he could have at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, especially in the 7-on-7 portion.
"In terms of my speed it is one of my strengths," he said. "Getting out in space, I will be all right."
But it is more than a goal of being all right, Hollins said that he wants to silence any critics that still may be out there.
"I can do anything that is asked of me," he said. "That's what I want to show everyone. I am not a liability or a player that needs to come off the field in some situations. I can and will do anything any coordinator can ask of me.
"Bottom line is I can do it."
Mike Farrell's take
Hollins plays mostly defensive end in high school but he projects as a linebacker so it will be great to see what he can do in space, especially against some of these top running backs and tight ends as well as wide receivers set to compete in the event. He's a very athletic kid but making that transition to linebacker is a tough one and this could be a great learning experience for him. Or he could surprise us all and be one of the best linebackers at the event because he has such good footwork, a great competitive drive and he's very instinctual. He'll be one of the few guys playing out of position of sorts so he's one to keep an eye on.