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BYU tight end Dallin Holker will use faith, hard work to prepare to compete in 2021

Dallin Holker happy with decision to serve mission rather than play in 2020

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BYU tight end Dallin Holker looks for yardage during the Cougars’ 21-18 loss to California on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU

If Dallin Holker had not left BYU’s football program for two years, would freshman Isaac Rex have caught those impressive 12 touchdown passes in 2020 from NFL-bound quarterback Zach Wilson?

Holker’s got speed, athleticism, height at 6-foot-5 and was impressive in 2018 when he played. He was the Deseret News 5A MVP in 2017. He played basketball and he’s got good hands.

What could he have delivered alongside Rex or instead of Rex if he’d been playing his junior year?

Of course, that question can never be answered. But it is pondered.

You see, faith took Holker away from football.

He chose to serve instead of catch footballs.

He picked a life of scripture study and preaching instead of enjoying that huge thrill he experienced at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, when the Cougars upset the Badgers, and celebrated with exhilaration and much emotion. A moment young men live for.

The big, talented tight end from Lehi, is now back from missionary service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He got back just in time to attend a couple of the final spring football practices the Cougars staged a few weeks ago.

He would not trade his mission for all the Wisconsins you could throw at him.

Holker is now in a unique position heading into summer. He must get in shape, and he’s being careful to avoid injuries. And, he must get to a point where he can compete for playing time, taking on the talented, big, athletic Rex, plus a decent tight end room filled with aspiring athletes that also want a piece of the action.

These guys include Lokana Enos, Bentley Hanshaw, Lane Lunt, Ben and Hank Tuipulotu, Masen Wake, Ben Ward and Carter Wheat.

Holker, who accepted a call to serve a mission to Chile in April 2019, was sent home during the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. 

Once home, Holker could have jumped back in school, got back to playing football, been a choice for Wilson heading into his breakout season in which BYU went 11-1 and finished ranked No. 11 in the final AP poll.

But he didn’t. He waited for reassignment to finish his mission elsewhere.  

That call came 312 months later, right when BYU football players were allowed back on campus for workouts.

I call that dedication. I call that devotion. 

We need more of that from this generation. We need more Dallin Holkers.

He still has no idea of his football role, when he’ll be in top condition, or how he will compete.

For sure, BYU will use a lot of 12 personnel (two tight-end sets), and he could play both the slot and take on routes as a receiver like senior Neil Pau’u.

But that’s all undetermined. Because of his decisions and choices.

“I loved my mission,” Holker said in an interview last week.

“I was able to serve in the Vina del Mar mission for about a year and after that I went to the Yakima, Washington, mission, and I love them both so much for the things I was able to learn and for the opportunity that I had to serve. I’m super thankful for it and I’m very thankful that I did.”

Holker said in the two years in two different countries and cultures he learned to work hard.  “I learned to rely on the Lord in all you do, whether it’s church or football, just all things. I think it’s to try as much as you can to see His example and then trying to do as much as you can do to be like Him. He then will help with what you decide to do.”

Holker caught 19 passes for 235 yards in a Jeff Grimes offense that featured the majority of passes to Matt Bushman (29 for 511), Dylan Collie, Talon Shumway and running back Lopini Katoa.

All but Katoa are gone now, replaced by Gunner Romney, Pau’u and Rex.

Holker is running in the mornings and lifting weights in the afternoons. He’s on a “safety” track BYU uses for players just off missions, easing them back so they don’t suffer soft tissue-injuries or stress fractures.

“My body feels really good,” said Holker. “Since I’ve been able to go back and start training. I felt really good, just taking it little by little. I think it’s important to try to listen to your body, it’s  the best thing that you can do. As a missionary you have a little bit of time to work out and exercise, but it isn’t like working out now.”

Holker is one of those BYU players who signs, plays and disappears. You never know when or how they’ll come back or what impact they may have.

But Holker is positive, upbeat and hungry to find out.

And he has faith.

Someone once said with faith anything is possible to those who believe.

It’s as good a recipe as any.