Shelby Co. substitute teacher was one game from Super Bowl

Colin Holba (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Colin Holba (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Nico Ballard (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Nico Ballard (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Lilly Sego (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Lilly Sego (Source: WAVE 3 News)

SHELBY COUNTY, KY (WAVE) - It sounds like a typo: A Shelby County substitute teacher was one game away from being on the field at the Super Bowl.  
But, it's not.

A former Eastern High School and University of Louisville stand out got an unexpected call and had an entire school district cheering for him when he was called up to the playoffs.

"How's it going," 6'5" Jacksonville Jaguars long snapper Colin Holba asked as he surprised fourth graders at Simpsonville Elementary.

"Good," the students replied.

"Football was just something that was re-introduced in my life in college," Holba said talking about his career.

The students weren't afraid to ask anything.

One student asked, "How much money do you make yearly on your contract?"

"That's none of your business," Holba said with a smile as the class chuckled.

The 9 and 10-year-old's actually knew a lot about the Jags and even watched Holba's playoff game with the Patriots.

Student Nico Ballard said he was rooting for the Jags.

"I do not like the Patriots," the fourth grader laughed.

Lilly Sego, 10, quietly cheered for Holba too.

"Unfortunately, my sister's boyfriend is a Patriots fan, and I was pretty sure he was going to scream at me," she explained.

The loyalty comes because Holba is family -- Shelby County Schools family. May 11, the UofL standout was the first Cardinal selected in the 2017 NFL draft.

The selection announcer said, "The Pittsburg Steelers select Colin Holba, long snapper from Louisville."

Holba's all-time favorite team signed him to a four year contract.

Three months later, his mom, DeAnn Holba, said, "We got a group text that said, you know I was released and my heart just sank for him."

The Steelers went for a player with more experience. Not ready to give up his dream, the finance major worked out while his agent worked the phones.

"But, I also didn't want to sit at home and do nothing all day," Holba told us.

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Teachers, like Holba's mom DeAnn always seem to have the answer.

DeAnn remembered the conversation with her son, "I said you could sub and it would be perfect."

From Collins and Shelby County Highs to the East and West Middle Schools, Holba was a hit with students and they kept him grounded.

"It was very humbling because the kids are like, oh, you must not have been that good if you're back here in high school," Holba laughed.

Teams called, Holba flew in and out of Kentucky. The player kept the faith into November.

Holba said, "I was taking my engagement pictures and I got a couple of text messages from my buddies saying that the long snapper for Jacksonville got hurt."

Jacksonville signed him Nov. 14.

Holba said, "It's zero to 60 in about one second."

With Jacksonville in the playoffs, the wild NFL ride couldn't have made a better stop.

"It kind of hit me when I got there, I was like this was an amazing opportunity," Holba said.

Up against the Steelers, he couldn't wait to beat them. Holba said of winning that game, "It kinda makes you smile a little bit."

Holba's Shelby County students became his biggest fans.

Shelby County Schools Director of Personnel John Leeper said, "When a child can have a teacher in the classroom with them, a substitute teacher like Colin, and then go home that evening and sit down finish their homework and get out the video game and all the sudden they are being Colin Holba on the video game."

Their "#49" was one game away from the Super Bowl. But, Holba had seen the Tom Brady 4th quarter comeback before.

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Holba recalled the loss, "We were right there how, what happened?"

The Pro wasn't looking forward to the flight home until he remembered the students like Nico Ballard. Ballard was thrilled to have Holba in class.

"I just feel really special that I'm like seeing a football player," he said.

Holba remembered what helped get him to that national stage in the first place.

"It was just a great support system of people here helping me out," he said.

Holba has another year on his contract and will be headed to training camp in April, but what is he looking forward to most? His wedding to his fiance and former Lady Bird, Lauren Dale, in June.

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