Sterlington senior middle linebacker Willie Holloway is making his only season as a starter count.

Sterlington middle linebacker Willie Holloway Jr. has exhibited two traits — patience and perseverance — that are falling by the wayside.

Playing behind Dawson Snell, arguably the best defensive player in school history, Holloway had to wait his turn for a starting position.

Most people would have given up the sport or changed schools rather than wait three years, but Holloway stuck it out.

"I've always had seniors and Dawson in front of me," Holloway said. "I knew my chance was going to come. I knew when my chance came, I was going to show out. I knew what I was capable of."

Upon his arrival three years ago, Sterlington coach Lee Doty recognized Holloway's potential.

"Coach Doty kept telling me to hang in there. He said I was going to get to play, and I have," Holloway said.

Doty is glad Holloway heeded his advice.

"Willie has done a great job," Doty said. "You're talking about a guy that played an awful lot the past three years, but wasn't a starter. When things didn't go the way he wanted, he didn't take his ball and go home. He didn't pout or whine about it. His parents didn't question me about his playing time. He stayed the course, and now he's being rewarded for it. He'll be an All-District player for us."

Holloway leads the Panthers in tackles (53) and tackles for loss (9), while chipping in a sack, an interception and a forced fumble.

During his apprenticeship, Holloway took advantage of the opportunity to observe the best.

"By watching Dawson, I learned to be disciplined and to keep my head on straight," Holloway said. "I learned to give my all every snap and not to brag about what I do. Dawson didn't do a lot of talking."

Holloway talks more than Snell (most people do), but goes about his business in a similar manner.

"Willie's a shining example to our young kinds on how you should handle yourself," Doty said. "Perseverance pays off. We're very fortunate to have Willie."

Holloway says he never considered quitting as an option. He loves the game too much.

"What I like about football is that it's a team sport," Holloway said. "My favorite part is the way we all come together as brothers. There's nothing like putting together what we've learned and executing on the field."

Never one to shy away from contact, Holloway is a natural fit at middle 'backer.

"I have always thought of myself as a hard hitter," Holloway said. "I give my all every time I make a tackle. Anything I do, it's all or nothing."

Holloway has developed an interest in other sports which could extend beyond high school. He has trained in mixed martial arts and will compete in his first jiu jitsu tournament on Saturday, Oct. 20 in Conway, Arkansas.

"I've been taking jiu jitsu lessons for about seven or eight months," Holloway said. "One of my buddies, Joseph Willis, opened a gym. I've always liked to wrestle, so he got me into it. Matthew Matherne, a state champion wrestler at OCS, does jiu jitsu with me."

Holloway says the jiu jitsu training has carried over to the football field.

Jiu jitsu has helped me with my cardio and conditioning," Holloway said. "Being on the mat for seven minutes is pretty tiring.

"Jiu jitsu takes a lot of discipline. You don't just jump out there and fight. It's helped me with football as far as keeping my cool."

On the field, Holloway has helped an inexperienced defense improve every week.

"I think we're coming along pretty good," Holloway said of the Panthers' defense. "We lost a lot of people last year, but we've had people step up and play well."

Holloway would be part of that group.

"Willie had a good guy to watch and learn from in Dawson Snell," Doty said. "He kind of set the tone for us as far as how a linebacker should play, study film and practice. Dawson started the tradition, and Willie has continued it. We'll see who takes the torch next year."

After high school, Holloway plans to attend ULM, major in criminal justice and become a state trooper.

"I like being a leader," Holloway said. "I feel like being a state trooper and protecting the community would be a good job for me."

As for football, Holloway realizes his career his winding down.

"This is my last year to step on the field," Holloway said. "I just want to go as hard as I can every snap, so I'll have no regrets at the end of the year. I don't want to go home knowing I could have done something better."

Holloway's all or nothing mindset will not allow him to give anything but his best.