As a player, Hollier was a versatile linebacker for the Dolphins for eight years, starting in 1992 when he was drafted by Miami in the fourth round of the draft. He was a consistent starter most of his first five years with the club, moving between middle and outside linebacker depending on the team’s needs. And he was a solid performer at both positions, especially on the Dolphins playoff teams early that decade under head coach Don Shula, including a start in the AFC Championship Game against Buffalo as a rookie. He finished his career by playing the 2000 season with the Indianapolis Colts.
Holier thrived at linebacker, playing alongside teammates like John Offerdahl, Bryan Cox, and Zach Thomas. His best year came in 1993 when he finished third on the team with 94 tackles. But his real value to the Dolphins came from his versatility, with his coaches knowing he would play well wherever they plugged him in.
Hollier finished his career by spending the 2000 season with the Indianapolis Colts. After he retired, he wanted to put his two degrees to use – his undergraduate degree in psychology from North Carolina, where he also excelled on the gridiron, and his graduate one in counseling from Nova Southeastern University. His Nova one was especially hard-earned – he took classes there while he was playing for the Dolphins, with head coach Jimmy Johnson occasionally excusing Hollier early from practice so that he could attend classes at the nearby school.
“By the time I decided to leave the game (or the game decided to leave me), I had finished my Masters degree at Nova,” said Hollier. “So when I retired I went to work for Carolina Health Care in Charlotte as an adolescent intensive outpatient counselor for adjudicated youth. I worked in the mental health field for 12 years in a variety of capacities, including as a foster care program manager for an agency and as a cross between a school counselor and a school social worker at North Stanly (NC) High School, where I also was an assistant football coach.”
While Hollier enjoyed his work and felt he was having a positive impact on the people he worked with, he missed his connection to the NFL. More than anything else, it made his retirement from football not quite as rewarding as he hoped it would be. But that proved to be a blessing in disguise, helping him to make his next career decision.
“During the last six years I worked in private practice as a psychotherapist, I got reconnected to the NFL,” recalled Hollier. “I reached out to some folks; John Gamble (the former strength and conditioning coach and Director of Player Development with the Dolphins) actually brought me in to speak to the team. I wound up speaking to a couple of teams around the league during those years, making various presentations as part of a panel of former players talking about the transition from football once our playing careers had ended.
“I had a very tough transition after I was done playing, and because of how tough it was I started an LLC called ‘Point After Transition’ in 2007 which was dedicated to helping other players transition out of the NFL. My transition was a real struggle, a real challenge, even though I had put a lot of things in place to prepare for that. I knew that if I could play nine years in the NFL and do OK and have a Masters degree and go to work right away and still struggle the way that I did, then what happens to the guy who plays two years, who hasn’t finished his undergraduate degree and had planned to play 10 years?”
As he started doing that, the more he realized that with his counseling background combined with his NFL experience, it was a unique opportunity to combine things he was passionate about, football and counseling, to give back to the sport he played.
“Because of what I experienced in my own transition, I knew I had to do something to try to help, using my football and counseling background,” said Hollier. “So I started doing that and enjoyed it. I had my private practice going, but I thought if the right opportunity came along I would look at it. When I heard about a position with the NFL, I applied.
“The position was Director of Transition and Clinical Services. At the time it was a newly created positon that encompassed a role that was there to some degree but also was new in some ways. The job description just fit my background and my interests, and I got hired.
“I started in 2013 and some of the responsibilities include working on the psychoeducation provided to the players, the rookie success program, the curriculum for the rookie symposium, a lot of the educational programs that go to players and their families. I’m a part of the discussions regarding the mental health initiatives that the league has. I help with the presentation of the domestic violence information and education to the players as well.”
While Hollier enjoys his new role with the league, he’s especially grateful that he can play a part in furthering the NFL’s initiative to provide a multitude of support services to its current and former players.
“My own personal experience and those of my former teammates and colleagues gives me a unique opportunity to use my background to help others,” he said. “It uses a lot of the skills I have learned from my education, my experience as a player, and my experience as a counselor. It’s a great mixture of everything I’ve been through and it’s definitely an honor to be able to help other players going through those same experiences.”
Hollier now serves as the NFL’s Vice President, Wellness and Clinical Services, and as part of his responsibilities he travels around the league to make life-skill presentations to players, coaches and staff. One recent trip had a special meeting for him – he returned to the Dolphins’ training facility to participate in the team’s rookie success program and enjoyed being around the building where he spent most of his NFL career.
“I have a lot of great memories from my time in Miami, and had a lot of great, great teammates and coaches,” said Hollier. “The locker room, the comradery, all of that stuff, was wonderful. Playing under Coach (George) Hill for eight years – having one linebacker coach my entire time with the Dolphins -- was pretty cool as well.
“I am definitely a Dolphin and always have been. My twitter handle is ‘dfin50’ for defense, the Dolphins, and my uniform number. Miami is a special place for me. It always has been, starting with the moment Coach (Don) Shula got on the phone on draft day and told me I was a Dolphin. I was blessed to spend eight years there.”