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Tough As Nails
December 03, 2008
By Wendell Barnhouse
Big 12 Correspondent

Two of the Big 12 Legends who will gather in Kansas City this weekend crossed paths about 50 years ago.

Grant Teaff, selected by Baylor as its Legend, was at his first coaching stop at Lubbock High School. The senior star on the team was E.J. Holub.

"I had never seen anybody like him, he was a phenom," Teaff said. "I liked to put him on the seven-man blocking sled, just him, and with me standing on it, he could knock that thing about three yards."

Holub went on to star at Texas Tech and play 11 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Holub was 6-4, 210 pounds and tougher than new rope. During his high school and college career, he was known as "The Beast."

When that term is used, a hearty Holub laugh comes through the cell phone.

"Thank you ... I guess," he said. "I was a raw-boned, big gangly kid. We were just a bunch of West Texas cowboys and farm boys who liked to play some football."

Holub was selected as Texas Tech's Big 12 Legend and will be honored along with Teaff and the other Legends this Friday and Saturday during the Dr Pepper Football Championship game.

The message on Holub's answering machine says he's out "feeding the horses or slopping the pigs" on his ranch outside of Lubbock. He works for the Red Raider Club, raising money for scholarships.

Holub was a two-time All-American center for Texas Tech (1959 and 1960) and was the first player to have his jersey number (55) retired. When Holub was playing for the Red Raiders, the school was just making its transition from the Border Conference to the Southwest Conference.

"That was a big deal," Holub said. "I also was around to play the first games in the new, expanded stadium. In high school, I played in the last game in the old stadium before they fixed it up. At the time, nobody wanted to come to Texas Tech. We had a lot of hungry guys who wanted to scrap and fight."

"The Beast" was the scrappiest. A two-way player, he was a force on defense. His senior season against Baylor he had 15 unassisted tackles and helped out on eight others. Against Arkansas, he had 18 unassisted tackles, 10 assisted tackles and returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown.

Teaff said Holub was a player whose motor always revved fast. That served him well during his professional career. He was a linebacker for the Chiefs and played in Super Bowl I. And in Super Bowl IV, he had moved to center. Holub is the only player to start on offense and defense in two Super Bowls.

Holub's move to the offensive line happened because of a torn hamstring. That led to one of the 20 surgeries he endured between 1957 and 1973. Holub's teammates were often amazed to see him sitting in the training room, his knees being drained of fluid just before taking the field.

A sportswriter was interviewing Holub late in his NFL career. Holub was sitting in front of his locker and the writer noticed the scars crisscrossing his knees. The writer observed that it looked as if Holub had lost a knife fight with a midget.

Holub's first knee surgery was to remove damaged cartilage. An athlete with cartilage damage in 2008 could be back in two weeks after arthroscopic surgery that requires just a small incision. During Holub's player career, the surgeries were much more invasive.

"I always used to say that doctors were ready to operate on me around tax time," said Holub, who has two artificial knees. "I've got zippers all over my knees. They'd unzip 'em, zip 'em back up. My left (artificial) knee is gonna need a little tune up."

Holub brushes away the notion that he paid a heavy physical price to play football.

"It's no different than any other line of work," he said. "Oil field worker, steel worker, whoever. Accidents happen and you go on. (Football players) are just more publicized and recognized."

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