HOUSTON—Houston Texans sixth-round draft pick Trindon Holliday walked into the locker room one day and found a plastic booster seat on his chair.
Yes, the 5-foot-5, 165-pound Holliday is the NFL’s shortest player and his teammates jab him with playful reminders almost daily. But he’s also one of the league’s fastest rookies and if he can master the art of receiving, Houston will add a unique and explosive weapon to its offense.
"It’s a learning experience for me now, just trying to get these things down," Holliday said after Tuesday’s practice. "I’m just focused on coming out, working hard every day and seeing where it all goes from there."
Holliday played running back and specialized in kick returns in four seasons at LSU, bringing back two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. He also was an All-American sprinter and was the 2009 NCAA national champion in the 100 meters with a time of 10 seconds flat.
But raw speed alone won’t cut it in the NFL, and Texans coach Gary Kubiak thinks Holliday must make vast improvements. The Texans can’t rely on Holliday for kick returns only, Kubiak said, and they need him to develop into a capable receiver.
"He’s way behind, he’s got a long way to go to prove to this team that he knows what he’s doing," Kubiak said. "I don’t know how much offense he played there (at LSU), in terms of what was expected of him. There are not many specialists in this business. You better know what you’re doing across the board."
Holliday is driven to win his coach’s approval, a mindset he says is fueled by his diminutive stature.
"Just dealing with that over the years has provided motivation for me," he said. "Just going out and proving to the world and to different people, that small guys can do it also. I was always one of the smallest kids, but I’ve learned to just take it and go out and prove everyone wrong."
Holliday caught only seven passes for 72 yards in college. He tried to convince scouts that he could play receiver in the months leading up to the draft, working on pass-catching and running routes.
The easy part was showing off his natural talent at the scouting combine in February, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds, second to Clemson’s Jacoby Ford (4.28).
Holliday caught a deep pass on the final play of Tuesday’s workout, and his teammates have seen flashes of his world-class speed through two weeks of offseason training activities. They’ve also noticed a strong determination.
"He’s quicker than a hiccup," receiver Jacoby Jones said. "He’s learning, he’s wide-eyed, but he’s coming. His height doesn’t mean anything. He plays like he’s 7-feet tall."
Holliday nearly qualified for the Beijing Olympics in the 100, reaching the semifinals of the trials and finishing 11th. Also that year, he earned three All-America honors and anchored LSU’s 4x100 team that earned the national title at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
While track would seem to be a more natural fit for his size, Holliday never envisioned a professional career in sprinting. He was always drawn to football, even though his mother kept him from playing until the seventh grade because she was afraid he would get hurt.
"It’s something that really grew on me, I just love playing," he said. "I tried to make the U.S. team a few years ago, I failed at that attempt. So I just said, ‘I’m going to try for football, and see how that works out.’ I haven’t really decided if I want to play football for the long term. But I love to play, so we’ll just see where it goes."