Curtis Hollinger knows a thing or three about the value of a good education. Now a Lafayette attorney, the former All-American tennis player at UL Lafayette from 1986 to 1990 is throwing his name behind a new effort to help fund the Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Foundation and the campus academic center that helps student athletes at his alma mater maintain their academic eligibility. Hollinger’s motivation is altruistic, but also realistic: So few athletes — even those good enough to play at the collegiate level — ever make a profitable career out of their chosen sport. “I try to make that point real to people I talk to who also have this dream of being a professional athlete, which ain’t going to happen. There are only a few who are that blessed and that special that can make money playing a game.”
The Hollinger JockSmart Sports Fest is a three-day event comprising a golf tournament Friday, Sept. 4, a breakfast forum the next morning and a doubles tennis tournament on Sunday. The forum will include a panel featuring state education Superintendent Paul Pastorek and state Rep. Rickey Hardy, who has tried unsuccessfully in the last two legislative sessions to increase the minimum required grade point average for high school athletes. The featured speaker Saturday will be Myron Rolle, a former All-American safety for the Florida State Seminoles and probable 2010 NFL draftee who delayed his pro career to accept a Rhodes scholarship.
The weekend should especially be a big draw for football fans, who will have the opportunity to rub shoulders and get autographs from Heisman Trophy winners George Rogers (1980, South Carolina) and Mike Rozier (1983, Nebraska), along with former LSU and New Orleans Saints running back Dalton Hilliard and UL gridiron great Todd Scott, himself a smart jock who, after completing a successful NFL career that included a 1991 Pro Bowl selection, went on to become the president of a real estate investment firm in Houston. But perhaps the biggest enticement to the breakfast is receiving a ticket to that evening’s UL-Southern football game at Cajun Field. Yet the focus remains on academics. “The core message behind this entire event,” notes Hollinger, “is that JockSmart is interested in encouraging elite athletes to pursue academic excellence.”
Hollinger’s own embrace of academics came by way of two unlikely sources: former tennis greats Andre Agassi and Jim Courier, with whom the Alabama native attended the famed Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in the mid 1980s. “At 15 years old I witnessed them, at 13 years old, destroying grown men playing the game,” Hollinger recalls. “At that point I realized I had absolutely no freaking chance of being a pro tennis player. So I realized then, I better learn something in my brain, because playing pro sports ain’t gonna happen for me.”
Hollinger JockSmart Sports Fest
1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4
$150 per person; $600 per four-player team
9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5
Cajundome Convention Center
$20 adults; $15 students
Attendees receive a free ticket to that day’s UL-Southern football game
Doubles Tennis Challenge
8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 6
City Club at River Ranch
$60 per team
For information or tickets, call Curtis Hollinger at 233-1471 or Julie Falgout at 482-0700, or log on to goacadiana.com and click on sports.
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