FAYETTEVILLE — Evan Hollister and his son, Jacob, plan to get in front of the television in Laramie, Wy., as soon as they can Saturday.
There’s no chance they’ll catch the Arkansas-Auburn game live. Jacob, a Wyoming tight end, will be on the field at the same time. But Evan Hollister said they don’t plan to miss any moment of the intriguing SEC West battle thanks to their DVR.
“There’s so much intensity, so much build-up to this day,” Hollister said Tuesday.
This day, as Hollister described it, is the long-awaited college football debut for both of his sons. While Jacob Hollister begins his career at Wyoming, his twin brother, Arkansas wide receiver Cody Hollister, will be in uniform for the Razorbacks.
Cody Hollister is one of several newcomers expected to help Arkansas as it faces the 2013 SEC champions in Jordan-Hare Stadium. But there will be something unusual about the debut for Hollister, who is a member of a retooled receiving corps Arkansas hopes will add more bite for a passing offense that struggled last season.
He’ll be playing without his twin brother for the first time. Ever.
“We’ll see what it’s like the first game, but it’s been weird not practicing with him right now,” Cody Hollister said earlier this month as Arkansas prepared for its season opener. “But we talk like we’re playing together. We’re texting each other constantly, calling each other after every practice. It’s going to be something different. But it will almost give me a little more motivation to play harder.”
It may not sound like a big deal, but the Hollister twins have been inseparable throughout their lives and athletic careers.
Evan Hollister said his sons are “as close as twins get, frankly” and are “wonderful brothers and best friends.”
The Oregon natives also were intense competitors throughout their youth. They always found ways to battle each other, whether it was making dinner, racing to the store or playing basketball. But Jacob, the quarterback, and Cody, the receiver, always worked together to lead their teams from peewee football to high school.
The brothers led Mountain View High to the state championship in 2011, giving the city of Bend its first state title since 1940. It didn’t led to big-time scholarship offers for either, so they decided to walk on at Nevada in 2012. After a coaching change, they decided to move on to Arizona Western College in Yuma.
“We kind of had a plan from the beginning that we might end up going to a junior college if this doesn’t work out,” Cody Hollister said. “So we went there with a little piece of mind. Then we left and it really felt like the right decision.”
It was there the Hollister brothers performed well enough to reach their goal of attracting more interest from Division I programs. Both earned offers to play at Wyoming and were prepared to take the next step together. Then Arkansas called.
Cody Hollister said he got a “big-time offer” to play for coach Bret Bielema.
But there was a catch: Cody and Jacob would be separated for the first time.
“We had a long talk about it,” Jacob Hollister said. “It’s obviously kind of tough for him, but we decided that was definitely the best opportunity for him and decided to take it. I think it was a really great decision.”
Said Evan Hollister: “(Cody) just felt so strongly about Coach Bielema, understanding what kind of player he was. That was important to him to have a coach that appreciated what he brings to the table.”
So the twins headed their separate ways.
Cody Hollister admitted he didn’t know much about Arkansas football or the SEC in general. He grew up watching Boise State, Oregon and Oregon State. But he did understand the opportunity in front of him when he arrived on campus.
He enrolled for spring practice and has made enough of an impact for Bielema to consider him one of the five receivers Arkansas will count on in 2014. It’s a sentiment position coach Michael Smith echoed last week.
“Cody’s going to play,” Smith said. “I think he’s steady Eddie. He’s a little beat up, and when I say beat up, I mean he’s leg weary. But he’s doing fine.”
Hollister is the second-team split end behind senior Demetrius Wilson on Arkansas’ depth chart for the opener. His father has no doubt if given the opportunity, Hollister will make an impact with Arkansas’ passing attack this season.
He described his son as a “machine” because of his work ethic and determination.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” Evan Hollister said. “Every challenge he gets he rises to the top and I expect him to do that now. He’s such a perfectionist. He wants everything right now. He wants to be the starter. He wants to be the go-to guy.”
His twin brother understands it may sound biased, but agrees.
“I’ve never really seen a receiver who you can count on more,” Jacob Hollister said. “I’ve really never seen a receiver work harder than him. He’s just so precise with his craft. He knows that whatever corner he lines up against he’s going to beat.”
Time will tell if it happens in the SEC, which has produced a long list of NFL cornerbacks and safeties. For now, Cody Hollister’s next step is playing his first game without Jacob by his side.
There are no regrets about splitting up. He bounced from Nevada to Arizona Western College, looking for a chance to play at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. Ultimately, it led the brothers to different schools.
But the day finally arrives for both of them Saturday.
“The opportunity is there,” Evan Hollister said about the start of Cody’s career as a Razorback. “Cody is exactly where he wants to be. He just wants a chance.”