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Jordan Holland may not be a household name but San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has known him for years. Holland, a defensive back, will be taking part in the 49ers rookie minicamp this weekend. When he steps on the field for the first practice later today, Holland will be fulfilling a promise he made to Shanahan back in 2016.

"I told him that one day I would get the chance to play for him," Holland said through email.

It was a bold promise to make. To understand how unlikely it must have seemed to Shanahan at the time you need to know Holland's story.

Holland's football career has been anything but conventional. It started normal enough. He played for Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas. Without a Division I scholarship offer he decided to go to Division II school Texas A&M University-Kingsville. He was a defensive back and it was the school Pro Football Hall of Fame member Darrell Green.

Holland had always wanted to be a defensive back. He grew up around football. He's the son of current 49ers run game specialist and outside linebackers coach Johnny Holland. Johnny was an NFL linebacker prior to coaching. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round in 1987 and played for them for seven seasons prior to retiring after the 1993 season.

Jordan Holland (right) with his father Johnny Holland at the East-West Shrine game in 2015. Jordan Holland is taking part in the 49ers rookie minicamp this weekend.


Following his retirement, Johnny became a coach for the Packers. It was here that Jordan spent time with some of the NFL's greatest players.

He was born in 1995 and at times hung out around the team. Despite those teams having Hall of Fame players like quarterback Brett Favre and defensive end Reggie White, it was defensive back Craig Newsome who Jordan called his favorite. The position is what Jordan believes he was born to play and he knew it even back then.

Jordan Holland with Hall of Fame member Reggie White in 1998.


Back at Texas A&M-Kingsville, Jordan impressed his coaches early as a freshman. Things were looking good until Jordan tore his hamstring and missed the entire season. Unfortunately for him, the coaching staff Jordan had impressed prior to injury was let go. Facing starting all over with a new coaching staff, Jordan decided to take the chance of playing for Prairie View A&M University, a Division I school, despite having no guarantee without a scholarship.

According to NCAA rules, being a transfer, Jordan would have to sit out a year. He finally got to play in 2014. Eventually, he became a starting cornerback and led the team with five pass breakups despite playing just seven games.

It was a promising season but his college career derailed after that. In 2015 he didn't play because of an academic issue. A new coaching staff took over the program and decided to not reward Jordan with a scholarship for his senior season. Jordan decided he didn't want to make his parents pay for another year of school so he turned pro.

"My dad is his own person and his money is his money," Jordan said. "Yes he will help me out and what not but to pay for another year of college just to play football was not something I wanted [my parents] to do."

It was an unconventional decision. Jordan had only played one season in college and was leaving eligibility on the table by turning pro. He had opportunities to play but he didn't feel the cost was justified playing off scholarship.

"The defensive coaching staff wanted me bad and I wanted to be back but the head coach didn't seem to want me," Jordan said. "I actually wanted to transfer and go play for Kevin Ramsey at Clark Atlanta [University] but money was the issue. So I decided to play pro ball."

Jordan went undrafted in 2016. He's bounced around the last few years but has slowly gotten better and better opportunities. In 2016 he played for the Billings Wolves in the Indoor Football League. He moved up to the Arena Football League in 2017. In 2018 he nearly made the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League. That's when the Alliance of American Football (AAF) came calling.

The league infamously folded after one season. Jordan said the league told him it would be doing a minicamp in mid-2018. He elected to forego a chance with the Montreal Alouettes in favor of the AAF. When the AAF finally did get going in late-2018 Jordan didn't make the San Antonio Commanders team. He said the team told him it wanted guys who had played in the NFL already.

Jordan also had a tryout for the Cleveland Browns in 2018. He wasn't signed because of his lack of experience. It wasn't the first time he had the chance to work with the Browns, however.

Remember that promise Jordan made to Shanahan? In 2016, Jordan had taken a regular job after going undrafted and was working in the Browns equipment department. Following a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons, Jordan spotted the then-Falcons offensive coordinator in a hallway and vowed to play for him one day.

"He might of thought I was crazy then but now here I am with the opportunity," Jordan wrote.

Jordan will need to really impress the coaching staff to be retained on a roster that already has 14 defensive backs on it. Working in his favor is Jordan's style of play.

The 49ers prefer cornerbacks who can be physical at the line of scrimmage. Jordan was listed at 5-foot-10-inches and 190 pounds on the official site of Your Call Football, a league he recently took part in and has an XFL partnership. He's also got good speed. He said he ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash and had a 39 inch vertical at a mock pro day. Most importantly, he revels on roughing up wide receivers.

"I'm a junkyard dog and every team needs one of those," Jordan said.

In the rookie minicamp, Jordan will be facing some stiff competition. The 49ers used two of their first three draft picks on wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. Jordan said he is looking forward to matching up with Samuel especially due to his reputation of being elusive at the line.

"I can't wait to go against Deebo. I have nothing to lose," Jordan said. "Yes, I feel I can get my hands on him. You have to be patient with a guy like him. He is very good at what he does, setting up routes and making guys miss. I do plan on being a pest to Deebo and whoever else I get to get reels with."

If Jordan, who is 24 years old, does manage to jam Samuel and the other rookie receivers at the minicamp he just may get a chance to stick around through the summer. If it doesn't work out he still has interest from CFL teams as well as the XFL.

Regardless of what happens after the minicamp, Jordan will have proven to be someone who keeps his promises. As improbable as it may have been in 2016, he will have played for Shanahan. Jordan is a man of his word.