While his teammates dressed quickly and exited the Seahawks’ locker room as joyous victors, Jacob Hollister, the unexpected and largely unknown hero of Sunday’s 40-34 overtime victory over the Buccaneers, was still in most of his uniform, including white Nike cleats taped to his socks.
When you make the winning 10-yard touchdown catch to end the game, a few postgame media responsibilities are required of you.
And also, maybe, just maybe, if he removed his sweat-soaked uniform and changed into street clothes, this magical moment might somehow vanish from reality.
But this performance wasn’t some crazy-real, fantastic dream — it actually happened. He really was the conquering hero and was carried off on teammates’ shoulders in celebration. A lengthy bear hug from coach Pete Carroll in front of his locker cemented the reality.
“It’s crazy,” Hollister said as his hands still shook with adrenaline.
Crazy and unforeseen.
Outside of the people in the organization and the truly obsessive Seahawks fans, Hollister is just another name and unknown player, a replacement at tight end from the practice squad, filling in for the injured Will Dissly.
For the record, Hollister was acquired from the Patriots in late April to provide tight-end depth. He had played in 23 games in New England over two seasons (2017-2018), making eight catches for 94 yards. The Seahawks released him Aug. 31 and re-signed him a day later to the practice squad, where he remained until Dissly went down with an Achilles injury.
But Sunday, he was a real and needed weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson and a Seahawks offense that was in the midst of a back-and-forth shootout with Tampa Bay.
“He came through today, two big touchdown passes. Of course, he gets the game-winner,” Carroll said. “Kind of a walkoff. He’s a good ballplayer and he’s doing a nice job for us across the board. You can see him run and catch. We hoped he would be a factor like this, and he’s coming through.”
Hollister had four catches for 37 yards. Besides his winning touchdown, he also drew a key pass-interference penalty in the end zone to set up his first career touchdown catch — a critical score — just before halftime.
“Hollister just showed up,” Wilson said.
The winning grab is certain to have Hollister’s cellphone buzzing with messages and calls.
“They were in man (coverage) pretty much like they were all game and I had the guy (safety Jordan Whitehead) about 8 yards off of me and I had the route where I knew I had to beat him across his face,” Hollister said. “So I just ran at him to try and set him up for a second and use my speed to get away from him. Russ put a perfect ball on me where I could turn up field and score.”
Wilson could see the touchdown developing the moment Hollister made his break.
“It was pretty sweet with just how he leveraged the guy,” Wilson said. “And bang, touchdown.”
There was no crazy celebration from Hollister. He stood up, arms raised with ball in hand — a kind of “look what I just did!” moment — then was tackled by receiver David Moore. From there, his teammates piled on and then lifted him on their shoulders.
“I thought I was going to die, people were just piling on me,” he said.
But the pandemonium was halted momentarily when referee John Hussey announced that the play was under replay review and the field needed to be cleared.
For a moment, Hollister wondered if he didn’t get the ball across the goal line before his knee touched the turf.
“I didn’t know honestly,” he said. “When they paused it, I was just like, ‘Man, I hope I got in.’”
He did get in, by just a few inches, and the celebration resumed when Hussey announced that it was a touchdown.
A native of Bend, Ore., Hollister had his sister and a handful of childhood friends in the stands, the group making the trip north to see his fourth game as an active member of the Seahawks.
“It’s such a blessing to be in this position and to be on this team,” he said. “Being around these guys and in this organization is awesome and I’m back on the West Coast. It’s just awesome. I love it.”