Corey Holliday, Steelers Wide Receiver, 1995-1997
First, can you tell readers about your role with North Carolina as Associate Athletic Director – how you got started and what it entails?
I started out twelve years ago working as Director of Student-Athlete Development where my responsibilities focused mainly on be a resource for the student-athletes and helping them to navigate a successful college experience. I was promoted to Assistant Director two years later and have been the Associate AD for Football Administration for the past seven years.
While not a coach, you are obviously working with the coaching staff regularly. What coaches and coaching lessonsfrom your time in Pittsburgh had the greatest impact on you – and which do you find yourself referring to now as you work with athletes and coaches?
Coach Cowher preparation for team meetings always fascinated me during my time with the Steelers. He always delivered concise, planned messages to us during team meetings. I try to handle staff and team meetings the same way here at UNC. Time spent in staff or team meetings are very valuable so I work hard to be an effective, efficient communicator.
In ’95, you came to Pittsburgh and earned a spot on the roster. What do you think about your play caught the eye of the coaching staff and helped you earn that roster spot?
I think being a quick learner caught to attention of the coaching staff. I was able to learn multiple receiver positions, blocking protections and special team roles.
Who helped mentor you as a rookie and helped you adjust to the NFL both on and off the field, and how so?
Levon Kirkland was a positive influence on my development as a professional. He provided great insight on how to handle the responsibilities of being a Steeler on and off the field. I tried to match his intensity in practice even though we were on opposite sides of the ball.
You had a prolific career as a wide receiver at North Carolina – breaking receiving yard records that lasted until 2008. How would you describe your style of play and how frustrating was it for you after that success to gain limited game day opportunities as a receiver with the Steelers?
I considered myself a big, physical receiver during my time at UNC. But at the next level I lacked the necessary quickness to be more of an every down impact receiver, so I worked hard to find a niche within the offensive system.
The coaches used me a lot in goal line one receiver sets for my blocking and also in the backfield for protection when we used the five receiver sets.
What was your biggest adjustment to the NFL game and how did you overcome that?
My biggest adjustment to the NFL had to be playing special teams. I never played on any of the special teams at UNC, but my play on special teams was the only reason why I made the roster with the Steelers. Coach Cowher really emphasized special teams play as not being as much about talent but more about an attitude and I went out every time trying to show my desire and effort to make a play.
Who were some of the funniest and most interesting characters on those Steelers teams, and what made them so?
The receiver group at the time had a lot of characters – Charles Johnson had the funniest laugh you have ever heard, when he laughed it made you laugh even if you didn’t know why he was laughing; Ernie Mills was just so cool and laid back he never got ruffled about anything and then you had Kordell “Slash” who was always being a prankster.
The other obvious characters were Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene.
Against Dallas in the 2005 Super Bowl, you were able to gain playing time and caught two passes. What were your thoughts when you found out you were going to see action as a receiver and was it mixed emotions for you after the game, having lost but having gotten to contribute on offense?
There were no mixed emotions after the game, it was mostly disappointment. We lost the game and I received more playing time because Ernie Mills was injured during the game. I look back now and I am very proud of the fact my name is in stat sheet in one of the best Super Bowl games ever played.
You retired at the end of the ’97 season. What prompted that decision and how difficult was that for you?
I was coming off shoulder surgery and I was one of the last roster cuts in ’98. I wish I could have played a few more years but it wasn’t a difficult decision to retire. I always knew I wanted to get into athletic administration after the NFL, so I was looking forward to the next challenge.
What do you think of today’s NFL – with the greater stress on the passing game now?
I would love to play in today’s passing systems, but I would probably be a passing catching tight end now a days.
What were some of your greatest memories as a Steeler and what made them so?
One of my greatest memories was traveling over to Ireland. I was injured so I didn’t practice with the team so I had the opportunity to go over to Northern Ireland to perform some football clinics. That was a real eye-opening experience and provided me with a true appreciation for living in the United States.
One of my fondest memories on the football field was catching a touchdown jump ball against the Packers at Lambeau Field (preseason).
Any last thoughts for readers?
I loved the Steelers growing up as a little kid in Richmond, Va. I had the Steelers bed sheets, curtains and posters in my room. I was a huge Lynn Swann and John Stallworth fan, so having an opportunity to be a Steeler was definitely a dream come true.