'No bad blood' between Holley and Stampeders
Nate Holley was working on a backyard patio when the call came from his agent Tuesday night.
The message from the voice on the other line was simple: It’s time to get going, the NFL is calling.
After a frustrating off-season that saw Holley unable to pursue NFL opportunities when it became clear that a long-talked-about window for CFL players to do so would not happen, the Calgary Stampeders agreed to release Holley from his contract so that he could chase his dream south of the border.
“My phone’s been blowing up like crazy. I don’t know where we’re going to be headed right now, (but) we’ve got a couple of options, a couple opportunities,” Holley said from his home in Ottawa Lake, Mich. “Yesterday, I went to training, and I was doing a deck job, and I kind of had an idea about some of it, but then my agent called and said I needed to quit working and be ready to leave.
“My mind’s spinning, I’m excited, I’m happy, and I’m just trying to be prepared for whatever’s about to come.”
Multiple reports indicate there should be plenty of interest from NFL teams for Holley’s services. That’s been true since the end of the 2019 CFL season, and Holley likely would have been signed by an NFL team back in December after an impressive first year with the Stampeders that saw him earn CFL Most Outstanding Rookie honours.
The opportunity to join an NFL roster never materialized, though. When Holley had initially signed with the Stampeders, it was understood around the league that there would be a new window for players who were entering the option year of their contracts with CFL teams to work out or sign with NFL organizations.
Shortly before that window was supposed to open, though, it was reported that the NFL hadn’t agreed to the conditions the CFL had attached to letting players free from their contracts.
Suddenly, the door was slammed shut on Holley’s pursuit of an NFL opportunity, and it didn’t reopen until the Stampeders decided to release him. That decision came shortly after the CFL announced its 2020 season would be cancelled and was announced on Wednesday morning.
“There’s no bad blood there — I have a good relationship with the Stampeders,” Holley said. “I do wish originally things would have been handled a little differently. I felt the league promised us an opportunity that we didn’t get to practice upon when the time came, which I thought was a shame. Other than that, with the Stampeders as a whole, I’m very blessed and there’s no bad blood because I’m appreciative of the opportunity that I did get this past season.
“Ultimately, without that opportunity, I wouldn’t be having these opportunities. It’s bittersweet with maybe one person in the organization, but that’s about it.”
If Holley signs with an NFL team, as is expected, he’ll become the eighth Stampeders player in the past two off-seasons to sign with an NFL team. While not all of them have made the cut at the end of training camp, there are reasons to believe Holley has a good shot.
He finished the 2019 season with 78 defensive tackles and one interception despite only taking over as the Stampeders’ starting weak-side linebacker at mid-season,and finished fourth in the CFL with 22 special teams tackles despite barely playing on that unit for the Stamps once he began starting at linebacker.
“I feel good, I feel healthy, I’m moving well,” Holley said. “I’m excited for what’s to come.”