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Reality star Holley deflects spotlight

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By Christian West

Unless you're a huge fan of Michael Irvin reality shows or study the Cowboys' practice squad religiously, you probably didn't hear the name Jesse Holley until Week Two's Cowboys-49ers overtime thriller.

With injuries to top receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and the Cowboys staring down a disappointing 0-2 start, Holley and Tony Romo connected on a 77-yard pass on the Cowboys' first play from scrimmage in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.

"When Tony called the play in the huddle, I was excited," Holley said. "Then, when I saw the safety, I was just hoping to get the ball as soon as possible so I could start running."

And even though he was caught from behind at the one, he says friend and mentor Irvin didn't have anything to say about it.

"Mike wasn't the fastest guy, so he didn't have much to say about that," Holley joked. "But he was happy for me and happy for the team."

And that play, coupled with the fact that he got his roster spot because of a reality show, sent Holley briefly into the national media spotlight.

During Monday night's contest with the Redskins, with Bryant back in the lineup and the team having re-signed WR Laurent Robinson, Holley moved right back to his primary special-teams role along with a few offensive snaps. Holley doesn't mind at all.

"I'm a special-teams player first," Holley said. "I'm here to do whatever Coach needs me to do."

It's the attitude you would expect from someone who took a long, winding route to the NFL. The UNC product, who was also a member of the Tar Heels 2005 national championship basketball team, was not chosen in 2007 NFL draft. He signed with the Bengals and was placed on their practice squad to begin the season before being released in October.

In the spring of 2008, he headed north to Canada, where he signed with the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League. He barely got his foot in the door before getting cut again.

"Canada is what it is. It was an interesting situation," Holley said. "I'm just thankful for the show."

The show, "4th and Long" on Spike TV, would probably be Holley's last shot at his NFL dream, so he wasn't going to take it lightly. He was determined to make the best of his opportunity.

"The show gave me a sense of focus," Holley said. "We weren't allowed to have contact with the outside world. It was all football. It prepared me for what is needed here."

The show gave Holley a spot on the 80-man training-camp roster, giving him a shot at making the 53-man final roster. In 2009, he didn't make the final roster and spent the season on the practice squad. In 2010, he appeared in 12 games as a special-teamer.

His focus remains on trying to make his mark in practice and an impact on special teams. He wants to stay humble, and what comes as a result of his hard work is just a bonus.

"I'm going to do what I've always done," Holley said. "Get more reps in practice and do what Coach wants me to do."

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