Life is full of adversity and challenges. For Henderson State’s Dustin Holland, he has already gone through a lifetime of hardship.
Holland, in his fifth year at Henderson, earned his bachelor of general studies and is currently working on a master’s in sports administration.
Holland’s journey began in Benton, Arkansas, where his family owned a gravel company run by his grandfather George Holland.
Since Dustin’s father was never around, it was his grandfather who was his role model.
“My grandfather was pretty much my father,” Holland said. “I had everything given to me and I would go everywhere with him. I really did have everything I could want.”
At the age of 9, George Holland died, leaving Dustin without a father figure.
“I was devastated,” Holland said. “It was a very difficult time for me. It was the first time that I really experienced loss.”
From that point on, his mother Georgia did everything she could do to provide for Dustin and his younger brother Dylan.
As an adolescent, Holland was the man of the house, often preparing meals for his brother and having to take care of him.
Holland attended Bryant High School where he was an all-state performer. A three-year letterman, Holland totaled 2,500 all-purpose yards with 11 touchdowns and earned all-conference honors both his junior and senior seasons.
After his playing days at Bryant, Holland began working several small jobs. Already a father at the age of 18 with another son on the way, Holland was looking for more than an $8-an-hour job to support his family.
“It was difficult and I got caught up in doing things I wasn’t supposed to be doing,” Holland said. “I got involved in the wrong crowd and paid the price.”
Holland would spend two months incarcerated for his wrongdoings. It was an experience that changed his life forever.
“I look back and realize it was a blessing,” Holland said. “The fear of not being a good father to my children is what changed me. It is my driving force. I knew I didn’t want to follow the same path as my father. Every day I spent in jail I thought about what I was going to do when I was released.”
Holland knew he had to get a college education and enrolled at another institution. He also wanted to continue his football career. When he approached the coaching staff about walking on, they refused. Six weeks later he dropped out of school.
Willing to give college and football another try, he came to Henderson three years later.
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Holland’s first meeting with Henderson coach Scott Maxfield was not what he expected.
“I remember it as if it were yesterday,” Holland said. “I walked in his office acting all cool and told him that I could play. Max looked at me like I was a crazy kid and said: ‘OK kid, we will give you a shot and feed you to the wolves.’ ”
After a redshirt year playing on the scout team, Holland went into Maxfield’s office for his year-end exit meeting. Holland was asked about his past and he was up front and truthful. That is when Maxfield laid down the law and told Holland that he needed to take advantage of this second chance.
Following his second spring at Henderson, Maxfield and offensive coordinator Mike Volarvich took notice of Holland’s work ethic and his performance on the field.
Maxfield granted Holland a scholarship, and three games into his redshirt-freshman season, he was listed on the Reddies’ depth chart.
“Following a game against Harding, we were in a team meeting watching game film. That is when Coach Maxfield told everyone that I would be a starter,” Holland said. “Coach Maxfield told the group that the way I had played is what he expected out of everyone. That moment was a special one for me.”
Meanwhile on the home front, Holland got reacquainted with someone he knew from high school. In 2012, he married his wife Britain who had three children from her first marriage.
Now with five children, times were even tougher for the Holland family. Britain, who works as a nurse, was the lone source of income for the family. Additionally, Dustin would drive one hour each day to Arkadelphia from Benton to go to school and football practice.
“We have gone through our share of arguments and have cried on each other’s shoulders,” said Holland. “It has been stressful at times. Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done. Each year it gets a little harder and more expensive, especially with the kids getting older.”
Holland, however, maintains that if it wasn’t for Britain’s strength and understanding that there is no telling where they would be.
“My family means more to me than anything in this world,” Holland said. “Britain is an amazing woman and deserves more. I treasure the time we have together. It’s difficult to find time for the two us to go out to dinner, to a movie, or just spend quality time together. But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and know things will be OK.”
— Dustin Holland
Holland believes that football has helped him become more disciplined, but ultimately it is Maxfield that has had the lasting impression on him.
“Coach Maxfield is like a father to me,” Holland said. “I joke around and call him paw-paw. He has taught me how to be a better man and how to be a better father and husband. He has taught me that you have to be responsible, to do whatever it takes to get the job done and take care of business. His attitude of being fearless and strive to always get better each and every day is the way I approach life.”
Holland said he couldn’t have asked for a better coach and mentor than Maxfield.
“The players play through Coach Maxfield,” Holland said. “He wants us to be successful and we want to be successful for him, both on and off the field. He gave me a second chance when most wouldn’t. I owe him so much.”
A first-team All-GAC selection in 2012, Holland has 1,887 yards during his career, ranking him fourth in HSU history. Second in Reddies history with 154 receptions, Holland will become only the second player in school history to eclipse 2,000 yards for a career.
A routine day for Holland during the season includes waking up at 5:30 a.m. He helps get his six children fed and ready for school. He then babysits his youngest daughter until the early afternoon when it’s time to take that one-hour trip to Henderson for school and football practice.
His children usually attend every Reddies home game. Drake and Brady are Holland’s sons from a previous relationship. Hayden, Riley and Jaxon Hunter are Britain’s children from a previous marriage. Britain and Dustin have one child together, Aubrey, who is a year old.
“I love each and every one of my children the same way,” Holland said. “I treasure each and every moment I have with them and I want the very best for them.”
Holland hopes to become a coach once he earns his master’s degree next year. He knows there are more challenges ahead, but believes that what he has gone through in the past 26 years has prepared him for the rest of his life.
“I am grateful for everything I have,” Holland said. “I have a beautiful wife, a great family, and I have received a top-notch education from Henderson State University. I am lucky.”