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Jesse Holley’s amazing football odyssey brings him to Foxboro

06.12.12 at 5:16 pm ET

Jesse Holley couldn't have been happier to be in Foxboro on Tuesday for Patriots minicamp. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — Asked Tuesday what it’s like being a new receiver in the Patriots passing game, Jesse Holley had a quick answer.

“Have you ever been to Japan?” he asked a reporter. “Do you speak Japanese?”

No, responded the reporter with a smile.

“That’s it right there,” he said. “There you go. It’s Japanese.”

So how do you pick things up fast enough so you’re not overwhelmed?

“I just ordered Rosetta Stone,” he said with a laugh.

Tuesday marked the first day in the New England offense for the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, who played for Dallas for the better part of the last two seasons. He said his first day was “fast,” but added that he was “ready for the challenge.”

“I’m working my way through it, taking it one day at a time,” said Holley after a minicamp session that ran for roughly two hours on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. “I’m around a bunch of guys asking questions, paying close attention. My notebook will probably be filled by the end of tonight. So I’m just closing my mouth, opening my eyes, opening my ears and absorbing as much as I can.

“Like I said earlier, it’s fast. They run a pretty fast system here, and they expect you to learn a lot, and I’m OK with that. I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Holley has a fascinating back story — the 28-year-old was undrafted out of North Carolina before spending some time on the Bengals’ practice squad. After a brief stint in the Canadian Football League didn’t work out, he was working as a security guard and cell phone salesman when he decided to try out for Michael Irvin’s reality show “4th and Long.” He emerged victorious, and that earned him an invite to Cowboys’ camp in 2009.

Holley spent the entire 2009 season and the first part of the 2010 season on the Dallas practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster. He finished the 2011 season with seven catches for 169 yards. The 28-year-old is a graduate of North Carolina, and has played in 28 NFL games over the course of his career.

He was recently released by the Cowboys, and was planning on taking some vacation time last week with a trip to Cancun. But after he landed, he turned his phone on, and his agent was on the other end of the line, saying he had to get to New England as soon as possible.

“I just landed in Mexico and I turned my phone, and my agent said, ‘Where are you at?’ I said, ‘Mexico. Cancun.’ ‘You’ve got to get back. The Patriots want to work you out,’ so I grabbed my bag and had to find a flight to get back here.

“I got here in the wee hours of the morning, ready for a workout the next morning. It’s just another chapter in the book — hopefully, it’s going to be something I can tell my kids and my grandkids when I’m old and gray.

“I was excited — this organization is a great organization and a winning organization, and I’m just blessed to truly be a part of it. I want to succeed here and hopefully, I can be here for a very long time.”

Based on his experience in Dallas — as well as the rest of his travels around the league — Holley can look around Gillette Stadium and see a few familiar faces, including Ryan Mallett and Sterling Moore, as well as former Dallas teammates Bobby Carpenter and Tony Fiammetta. As for the rest of his teammates, he said he and quarterback Tom Brady have “introduced” themselves, and was excited to be located just two spot down from him in the locker room.

“He knows my name, hopefully. I know his name,” Holley said of Brady. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to learn over and ask a couple of questions. If he answers them, great, if not, I’ll ask him again tomorrow.

“That’s pretty much it right now. Until I start really learning the offense, I don’t think Tom and I will have any pretty long conversations. But we’ll see. I’m optimistic.”

Holley does not have practice squad eligibility, and as a result, likely faces an uphill climb to try and land a roster spot at a position where New England appears very deep. He understands the reality of the situation, but it’s not like he hasn’t faced long odds before.

“Any time your on the football field, there’s competition. At the same position; offense, defense, special teams. There’s competition there,” he said. “But [now] I’m around guys who are in the league nine, ten, eleven, twelve years, so you have to soak that up. You have to get inside their pocket and get in their ear and ask questions. That’s what they’re here for.

“They’ve been in this league a lot longer than I have. They’ve been on different teams and different situations — Super Bowls. All over the place. So why not ask questions and try and soak up as much as I can as fast as I can before we go on this break. So I’m just trying to absorb everything.”

In the end, he has a simple game plan for making the final roster.

“Work my tail off. That’s what my life has been about,” he said. “I’ve worked my tail off each and every place that I’ve been — my entire life, everything that I’ve done. One thing about hard work is that it always pays off, in anything you do. Whether it’s on the field or off the field, in life, in marriage, in relationships. Being a friend, being a brother, being a mentor. If you work hard your tail off, success will find you.”

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