This time last year, New Mexico State quarterback Chase Holbrook had just completed the National Football League Scouting Combine and was fielding calls from a half dozen NFL teams doing their preparation for the 2009 NFL Draft.
Now Chase is the running backs coach at Division III McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. It wasn’t exactly the career Chase had anticipated, but it still hasn’t discouraged him from his dream of being a professional football player.
Though more than a year has past since his last collegiate snap and many are doubting whether Chase can make it back to the NFL, let alone the Canadian Football League or the United Football League, Chase has proven his doubter wrong once before.
In high school, Chase was an option quarterback at L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, Texas, barely garnering interest as a quarterback. Instead most schools recruited him and his 6-foot-5 frame as a tight end, including TCU, Missouri and Tulsa. But Chase wanted to be a quarterback and only one school offered him that opportunity: Southeastern Louisiana and its head coach Hal Mumme.
Many people told Chase he was stupid for traveling to Louisiana to follow his dream of being a quarterback. In fact, one college head coach flat out told him there was no way he would ever become a successful college quarterback, which only fueled his desire to prove skeptics wrong.
Chase was also smart to heed the advice of Mumme who, while the head coach at Kentucky from 1997-2000, helped develop quarterback Tim Couch into the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft and a Heisman Trophy finalist.
After spending his freshman season as the back-up at Southeastern Louisiana, he transferred to New Mexico State, following Mumme who became the Aggies new head coach.
At New Mexico State, he blossomed into the quarterback Mumme thought he could be. During his sophomore year, Chase threw for 4,619 yards (an NCAA record for a sophomore), 34 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He followed up his sophomore year with two more outstanding seasons in Las Cruces, N.M.
“I am proud of my college career especially after high school where everyone told me I wasn’t a quarterback and having only one offer to play quarterback,” Chase said. “Everyone else told me I was a tight end, but coach Mumme believed in me.”
As Chase prepared for the 2009 NFL Draft, he thought he would get drafted late, or at the very least be brought into a team’s camp as an undrafted free agent. Prior to the draft, several teams had expressed an interest in Chase. But after the draft, the calls stopped and he was left without a job.
“It was a crazy process,” Chase said. “To train for something for so long was exciting and tough. I thought I would get picked up, but in the end, I had to make another plan.”
Part of that plan has included his coaching job at McMurry, something Chase says has helped him grow as a football player. He is constantly analyzing film with other coaches and his players.
“I have truly enjoyed coaching, and it’s helped me a lot as a player,” Chase said. “It’s helped me see things from the other side of the ball, and I think I have grown as a player because of it.”
During the season, Chase spent a lot time working out, both with his players and by himself. He has shed more than 10 pounds since the 2009 NFL Combine, increasing his mobility and speed. During the season, he also acted as a quarterback during practice, throwing close to 100 balls a day and keeping his arm in top shape.
It would have been easy for Chase to relinquish his professional football dreams after the 2009 NFL Draft, but Chase is still optimistic about his future and confident in his abilities. And now he has even more motivation to still pursue professional football.
“The first couple months after draft, waiting for the call, you get upset and frustrated,” Chase said. “But it helped me realize that I needed to get better. And I think I have.”
Chase’s goal is still the NFL, but he doesn’t mind if his first opportunity comes in the Canadian Football League, the United Football League or another league. Earlier this year he took the initiative of hiring new agents and has benefitted from a new outlook and fresh approach to his career.
“I am keeping my options open, but at the end of the day, I am just looking for an opportunity to play and prove myself,” Chase said.
Many continue to doubt his ability, the notion that he can play professionally after sitting out a year and many other aspects of his game. But he says if life has taught him anything, it’s that he has proved cynics wrong before and will do so again.