Mesa’s Holder adjusting to life away from military bases
Drew Holder was born in Grand Junction, but when he returned to attend Colorado Mesa University, he felt like a foreigner.
The junior tight end lived on several military bases, including his four years of high school in Misawa, Japan.
“It was a culture shock when I came back,” Holder said. “Japanese culture and military culture is so much different.
“You had curfews on bases, then you come to college. You’re already out of your mom and dad’s house, then you’re on your own and no base regulations. You can check my transcripts. You can tell I had too much freedom.”
His arrival at then-Mesa State College in 2009 surprised his teammates, who were expecting someone of Japanese descent, not realizing his dad was serving in the U.S. Air Force.
“My first nickname when I got here was Japan,” said Holder, sporting a Japanese Kanji tattoo that says ‘Strength in Brothers.’ “The first thing anyone said to me when I first got here was, ‘You don’t look Japanese at all.’ “
Drew and his younger brother, Travis, have the same tattoo. Drew has a cross tattoo on his left arm and another small tattoo on his left wrist that reads “Hfive,” symbolizing the Holder family of five, which includes his parents, two siblings and him.
“We wanted a good thing to remember Japan by,” Holder said. “We had a good experience there.”
He came back to Colorado, where his parents grew up and now live. His dad, Steve, was from Brighton and wrestled at Mesa State. His mother, Carol (Wilson), graduated from Grand Junction High School.
His dad retired from the military and now resides in Denver. His older sister graduates from Colorado Mesa in December. Travis enrolled at Mesa this fall and plans to join the football team in the spring.
Drew wanted to play football in college, but unlike many recruits, he had to get college coaches to notice him.
Mesa, Adams State and CSU-Pueblo showed interest, he said, but it was former coach Joe Ramunno that sold him on Mesa.
“Everybody knows Coach Ramunno,” Holder said. “He’s a good salesman. He sold me on this place. My dad was already leaning for this place. After two weeks, (Ramunno) offered me a scholarship, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Holder saw limited action after redshirting his first year. A knee injury sidelined him most of last season.
This year, first-year CMU coach Russ Martin is counting on Holder to make an impact in his offense. The Mavericks (0-1) play the University of Northern Colorado at 1:35 p.m. today in Greeley.
“He gives us some depth at the tight end position,” Martin said. “He’s a big, strong kid that can help us there. He’s got good hands. He doesn’t have the blazing speed, but he can be a good possession receiver.
“He’s got to be a big factor for us. We’ll do some two-tight-end sets and almost always at least one tight end in the game. He’s got to make some plays for us and help us in the run game.”
Holder never played tight end until he arrived at Mesa.
He was a quarterback and linebacker for Edgren High School on the Misawa Air Force Base.
They played a similar 11-game schedule as in the U.S. against high school programs from other U.S. military bases. They won three small-school championships.
Holder was a two-time team MVP for his high school team.
“A lot of the guys in the Air Force were ex-college players,” he said. “We had 2,000 to 3,000 people at our games. (The Air Force officers) said I could definitely play (in college). I heard it enough I thought I might as well try.”
The Air Force officers appear to be right.
Holder doesn’t feel like a foreigner anymore.