College Sports

TCU’s Hollins grew up with ‘kids in jail right now for murder.’ Now he’s living out a dream

TCU’s Kellton Hollins on Oklahoma: We have to play our style of football

TCU center Kellton Hollins met with reporters on Tuesday as the Frogs prepare to face No. 9 Oklahoma. Hollins said the Frogs are going to stick to their style of play vs. OU.
Up Next
TCU center Kellton Hollins met with reporters on Tuesday as the Frogs prepare to face No. 9 Oklahoma. Hollins said the Frogs are going to stick to their style of play vs. OU.

Leroy Hollins has dedicated his life to mentoring youth in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area.

He’s had highs such as seeing La’el Collins become the Dallas Cowboys’ starting right tackle and Derrius Guice being a second-round draft pick by the Washington Redskins after an all-SEC career at LSU.

There’s been lows, too. Just a couple years ago, Leroy went to a funeral and a courthouse the same day. One of his players had murdered another one of his players.

“Sad thing. A drug deal gone wrong,” Leroy said. “It was based on lack of opportunities. Economic factors play a big role in it. It goes back to education, not understanding that drug deals aren’t your only options. The player was trying to become a rapper, turned to drugs to try and make money to get studio time … it’s a never ending cycle.”

That’s the grim reality for some growing up on the streets of Baton Rouge, or any city for that matter. It’s what drives Leroy and his family to do what they can to keep the youth on the right path.

They want to have more success stories such as Collins and Guice than tragic stories. The good news is there’s another budding success story from the Louisiana Youth Sports Network.

Leroy’s nephew, TCU sophomore center Kellton Hollins, is establishing himself on the field as a first-year starter and using his platform playing for a Big 12 program to make an impact off it.

Hollins, along with right tackle Lucas Niang, have been two staples on the offensive line, starting every game to date. Hollins has emerged as one of the leaders and knows the O-line will have to be on its game if TCU wants to upset Oklahoma on Saturday.

The Sooners have struggled defensively, particularly in the red zone (where opponents are a perfect 21-for-21 in turning those trips into scores), but have changed coordinators. OU is looking to get back on track against a turnover-prone TCU offense.

“Oklahoma is a great team,” Kellton said. “We all know who they are. We have to play our style of football going against a great defense.

“It doesn’t matter if an NFL or a high school team is in front of us. We’ll just play our style of football.”

Kellton has always had that kind of mindset. He doesn’t bite when asked leading questions, and approaches each game the same whether it’s Southern, Ohio State, or Oklahoma.

Leroy chuckled when he recalled Kellton putting the words “Fear Me” across his helmet in his younger days. He’s always been an aggressive player.

“When Kellton was 7-years-old, he told me he didn’t want to play with the 7- and 8-year-olds in his group,” Leroy said. “He wanted to play with the 9-year-olds ‘cause he thought he’d hurt the 7- and 8-year-olds. I said, ‘It’s football. You’re supposed to tackle them.’

“So that first year he was playing in that age group and playing good and wrote, ‘Fear Me,’ on his helmet. He’s always played aggressive whether on offense or defense.”

Kellton is bringing that aggressive mindset to the Frogs after waiting his turn to crack the lineup. He entered school as the top-ranked center out of Louisiana in the 2016 recruiting class, but was stuck behind Patrick Morris and Austin Schlottmann.

Kellton redshirted in 2016 and appeared in four games last season before becoming the starting center this season. It’s been quite the journey from his Baton Rouge youth-league days.

“I came from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I really don’t need to explain the dynamic of it,” Kellton said. “I grew up with kids who have been killed, kids in jail right now for murder. Same kids I played football with – they’re not living the same dream I’m living even though we dreamed it together. I just want to make sure I’m that positive role model.”

Kellton is a product of the Louisiana Youth Sports Network, as well as the Scotlandville Sports Academy, two programs designed to help urban youth learn life skills through athletics. His uncle, Leroy, is associated with both and has seen it all over the years, from 12-year-olds who are the “heads of their household” to a 14-year-old proud to be “clean” for a couple weeks.

Kellton didn’t face those extreme difficulties or financial hardships growing up like some of his peers, but it furthered his inner drive to succeed. Leroy remembered taking his son to football camps back in the day, and a younger Kellton would occasionally tag along.

On one trip, Kellton stayed in the car to read a book.

“Kids are outside playing around and he’s just reading this book,” Leroy said. “It was on his summer reading list going into 10th grade. At that point, I knew Kellton would be about more than just football in his life.”

Kellton is achieving his football dreams while also pursuing a psychology degree and giving back to the community with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This platform I have, a lot of kids look up to me,” Kellton said. “That’s a blessing. I was always that guy, watching football [growing up], I was, like, ‘Dang, I really want to meet him.’ So, if a kid feels that way about me, I feel like I have to give back to him.”

TCU faces its biggest non-conference opponent to date with Ohio State coming to town for Saturday's matchup at AT&T Stadium. The Buckeyes have one of the top defensive lines in the country, and TCU is ready for it.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram