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Down to be a Brown

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In the days leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, it was unknown whether University of Pittsburgh tight end JP Holtz would be selected.

Although Holtz did not hear his name called, it didn’t mean teams weren’t interested in the 6’3”, 240-pound senior.

“If you’re going to go undrafted,” said Jeff Jankovich, Holtz’s agent, “it’s a pretty good situation to be in when you have 20-plus offers in front of you.”

That’s exactly how it went down for Holtz, who was drawing interest from more than half of the teams in the league during and after the draft.

Although a few teams showed serious interest in Holtz, including New Orleans and Chicago, according to Jankovich, there was one team that stood out among the pack: Cleveland.

“Not only did they work him out privately,” Jankovich said, “but they also flew him in for an official visit to Cleveland.  He was contacted by multiple levels of people within the Browns’ organization – coaches, scouts, personnel guys – so Cleveland seemed to be the one where there was the most contact.”

Both parties came to an agreement on April 30, making Holtz a Cleveland Brown. 

“I was really happy with going to Cleveland,” Holtz said. “It all worked out well.  They did show a lot of interest.  I’m very thankful for the opportunity they gave me.”

Holtz started his journey to the NFL at Shaler Area High School, a team that plays in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League, also known as the WPIAL.  Although he plays strictly tight end now, he contributed at a handful of positions while at Shaler.

“I moved around from position to position,” Holtz said.  “I played a little bit of tight end, I also played running back, quarterback, linebacker…I was actually the punter, too.”

Holtz turned out to be one of the premier prospects in the nation during his high school years.  Scout.com rated him the No. 10 overall prospect in the state during his senior season. 

Holtz said playing at Shaler was pivotal for his development and helped prepare him for future challenges he would face.

“I enjoyed my time at Shaler,” he said.  “I think it really prepared me to take my next step at college.  We had a good coaching staff, they knew what they were doing.”

Jon LeDonne, the current head football coach at Shaler, said Holtz’s impact still resonates with his players today.

“A lot of the players on my team look up to him,” LeDonne said.  “He was a role model for them when he was playing football here and they were in elementary school.  When he’s in the weight room working out with us sometimes, just the leadership he shows and the way the kids are willing to listen to him and follow him, that’s big for the program.”

Holtz chose to play at Pitt and contributed all four of his years there, playing tight end from 2012-2015. He finished his career with 81 receptions for 931 yards and 11 touchdowns.  He started 48 of the 52 games he appeared in throughout his stint with the Panthers.

He saved his best year for last.  Holtz caught 24 passes for 350 yards and four touchdowns in 2015, his senior year.  He was also named a team captain in his final season.

Holtz said it wasn’t too difficult for him to adjust to the coaching change last year at Pitt, when Paul Chryst left for the University of Wisconsin and Pat Narduzzi became the new head coach.

“I enjoyed all my times there,” he said.  “I didn’t have any regrets.  I was lucky, I actually only went through one coaching change.  Some of the guys I played with went through multiple coaching changes, which I knew was stressful for them.  But I think Pitt really prepared me for my next step in the NFL.”

Now a member of the Browns, Holtz is eager to work hard and take advantage of the opportunity Cleveland has given him.

“I’m just going to keep working hard and see what this opportunity holds for me,” he said.  “It’s been a great experience so far.  I’m really excited to get to work with the guys on this team and help Cleveland this year.”

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