2016 Notre Dame RB target Elijah Holyfield packs a punch

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Beating down opponents runs in the family for Elijah Holyfield.

His father, former world-champion boxer Evander Holyfield, did so with powerful punches. Elijah Holyfield, a junior running back at Atlanta’s Woodward Academy, does so by scoring touchdowns.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Holyfield reached the end zone 17 times in the first five games of his junior season. Seven of those touchdowns came in the season opener.

The success didn’t come as a surprise to college football coaches. The younger Holyfield has been receiving college scholarship offers for months. On Tuesday, Notre Dame joined a list of more than 20 schools with an offer to Holyfield.

“I was really excited,” Holyfield said. “It's not too often that someone can go to college for free. Anytime I get an offer, it's really crazy no matter how many I get. I'm just as appreciative for any of them, but Notre Dame's a really big one."

The Irish, led by tight ends coach Scott Booker, have been in touch with Holyfield in recent weeks. After sending the staff his transcripts and mid-season highlight film, Holyfield received an offer. The increased communication had Holyfield tuning in to watch the Irish play on Saturdays.

“Notre Dame's always on TV, so I've watched them a lot this year since I've been talking to them,” Holyfield said. “I watched the game this past weekend and I'll definitely be watching them more in the coming weeks.”

Holyfield also has been busy seeing college games in person. He attended Georgia’s season opener against Clemson, visited Ohio State for its game against Maryland and watched Tennessee host Florida. Plans to see Ohio State at Michigan State and Kentucky at Louisville are scheduled for November.

A visit for a Notre Dame game remains a possibility.

“I'm going to try to get to a game, but if I can't I'll definitely go in the offseason,” Holyfield said.

The 2016 prospect’s head start on recruiting has him starting to think about what will determine his final decision, even if his signing day is 16 months away. The likes of Oregon, Michigan and Ohio State, among others, will try to sway him to leave his home state.

"I'm looking for a place where I feel comfortable, a place where winning is expected and where I have the best chance to hopefully get to the next level,” Holyfield said.

Holyfield admits that his father may be a little biased toward the Georgia Bulldogs, but that he isn’t pushing his son in any particular direction.

“He's from Georgia so he's a big Georgia guy,” Holyfield said. “He's open to everything. He doesn't care; he just wants me to go where I'm happy.”

Being able to make his own decision is important to Holyfield. He wants to prove that the scholarship offers aren’t a product of his lineage.

“He's helped me a lot, but as far as athletically I feel like I've earned it myself,” Holyfield said.

Recruiting services seem torn on Holyfield’s talent. Rivals rates him as a four-star prospect and the No. 6 running back in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit and the No. 25 running back.

Regardless of the rankings, Holyfield remains confident in his ability to be a playmaker. He has the scholarship offers to support his case.

“I feel like I'm an every-down back,” Holyfield said. “I can be a feature back. I can catch well. I can pick up pass protection great. I'm smart enough for my age where I can pick up any offensive system. Anytime I touch the ball, I feel like I should score. At any time, I feel I can change the game.”

Below are highlights from the start of Holyfield's junior season.

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Notre Dame offered 2016 running back prospect Elijah Holyfield on Tuesday. The four-star recruit is the son of former boxing champion Evander Holyfield. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Five-time boxing champion Evander Holyfield, second from right, watches his son Elijah Holyfield play in a high school football game. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)