Khalid Holman was never scared.
Even when he was the smallest guy on the field.
Holman is a senior linebacker on the Frankford High School football team, and when he first came out for the Pioneers last year, they tried to stick him outside because he didn’t quite look like your average middle linebacker.
As the coaches soon found out, with Holman, looks can be very deceiving.
“I don’t think they thought I could hit too hard because I was small,” said Holman, who stands 5 feet 9 and weighs about 140 pounds. “They moved me outside, but I showed them I could do it. I’ve always been a better hitter than people thought I was. I played my whole life and even when I was little, I was 4, and they moved me up to play with 5-year-olds.
“Once they moved me to middle, I felt better. I played last year at middle, but I didn’t start because I had to earn my spot. They used me at center a little because we didn’t have anyone to snap the ball. I didn’t like it as much as middle linebacker, but I’ll do whatever. We needed someone to do it, so I moved there. But linebacker is my position. That’s what I love to do.”
This year, Holman was in his favorite spot, but his season ended during the Pioneers’ final regular season game.
“I hurt my knee early in the season, but it was just hyperextended,” Holman said. “I played through it. It hurt a little, but it was all right. It wasn’t too bad, I could do everything. But then in a game, I went to make a tackle, I stepped forward and it just popped. Nobody hurt me, I hurt me.
“I knew it was bad because all the other times I would just get up. It would be sore, but I could walk, limp, whatever. This time, I couldn’t. I knew it was bad.”
The result was a torn ACL. And getting the diagnosis was almost as bad as hearing the news.
“The MRI took like an hour and a half,” Holman said. “They put me in there, and I don’t know what they were doing. It usually takes less than an hour. And they gave me music, but it was really bad. I ended up falling asleep. Luckily, I didn’t move. But it was a torn ACL.”
Holman had surgery on the injured knee on Friday, one day after his team played its final football game of the season on Thanksgiving, a 46-20 setback to Boys’ Latin. The Pioneers won only two games this year, one on the field against Central and another via forfeit because Bensalem used an ineligible player on opening day, but it was still a good year as far as Holman could see.
It was Frankford coach Bill Sytsma’s first year in charge of the program, and he had a lot of work to do, according to Holman, because most of the team were inexperienced players cutting their teeth for the first time at the varsity level.
Against Boys’ Latin, the Pioneers were led by quarterback Roberto Falu, who threw for two touchdowns (both to Christ Adechokan) and ran for another. He finished with 245 yard passing.
While a 2-7 record isn’t very Pioneer like, it was the start of something good, according to Holman.
“This was a good year because we had so many guys play, guys who are younger, guys who never played before,” Holman said. “We had guys who never did anything, or never did anything in high school football. That was like me last year. It’s so different.
“I played growing up. I played for the Olney Eagles, I played for the Frankford Chargers, then I went to Frankford Boys Club. Then I played high school. Playing high school is so much different.”
Different, but still fun.
Holman had to learn the Pioneers’ system, and that included playing in some zone defenses. He didn’t look at it as a task, but more of a fun challenge.
“The coaches were so good with me, my head coach and the linebacker coach helped me,” he said. “When I got hurt a few times, they would help me get better. The team would make fun of me, call me the Tin Man, but I would always come back, except when I got the ACL.
“I think we played better than we were because we had great coaches and everyone wanted to play hard. We had a tough schedule and we lost close games. But overall, I think this was a big year for Frankford and the beginning of something big here.”
Holman won’t be there, but he’ll be watching from afar.
He hopes he’s able to recover from his surgery and get back in the weightroom to prepare for college. He knows he has a lot of work to do, but he’s very interested in playing football somewhere, even if he changes positions.
“I played some running back, and I’ll play anywhere, anywhere I get a chance,” the Frankford native said. “I want to work with computers, maybe something in computer science. That’s my best subject, I do well in math. I think I’d like to be a responsible hacker, someone who goes in and makes sure companies have everything they need so they can’t get hacked. That’s something I could see myself doing.”
But first comes rehab.
Holman has never been scared on the football field, but he is a little nervous about recovering from surgery. He’s heard war stories about rehab, but just like football, he’s ready to put in the work. You don’t become a 140-pound middle linebacker without putting in the work.
“I know it’s hard, but I want to get back and play,” Holman said. “I love football. This was a great year for me. I only had one year of playing to show people, so I want to get back out and do it. I just want a chance. That’s all I’m working for.” ••