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Graney: Mile run defines mental toughness of Raiders receiver

Updated July 25, 2022 - 2:12 pm

First things first: It seems more than a mile.

Mack Hollins is a Raiders wide receiver in ridiculously good condition. He’s also big on having teammates join him for an after-practice, after-lifting, after-workout mile run.

The way he tells it, it’s 2½ laps around the practice field complex — not counting end zones — then 150 yards and then 50 more. Then you turn around.

No time taken. No specific speed in which to run it. It’s all about finishing.

Hollins has estimated the exact distance. Everyone seems skeptical.

“I’m guilty of missing a few because the guy is a different breed,” said tight end Foster Moreau. “It’s definitely a little bit more than a mile — which tends to piss some people off.

“But we get it and we run it and we shut up and just do it.”

Defines NFL role

It’s more than just a run for Hollins. It pretty much defines his role as an NFL player. Anything to outlast the next guy.

Wide receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow. Tight end Darren Waller. More has been written and talked about this offseason concerning the three passing game threats than can be remembered.

But such is an offense of coach Josh McDaniels where others will be involved. That’s where a player like Hollins comes in, fighting this training camp for as much time as a third wideout option as he can earn.

That, and competing on every special teams unit — where he has really made a name for himself in the league.

He is the biggest (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) and fastest of Raiders’ wide receivers, a sixth-year pro who won a Super Bowl with the Eagles and played the last two-plus seasons in Miami. Few have stood out more early in camp.

He is a threat over the top on any snap and yet has career numbers of just 56 catches for 750 yards and six scores. But you can never have enough guys who stretch a field. Vertical is good.

Mostly, Hollins excels on coverages.

“That’s an underrated and really not talked about enough part of our game,” McDaniels said. “It’s a third of our game. This guy’s out there on almost every play, tackles, covers, blocks for people …

“He’s smart enough to maneuver all over our offense, which is very helpful to him. He’s gotten off to a good start. I haven’t run that (Mack Hollins mile). I don’t think I could make that. I’m glad he hasn’t asked me, but great personality. Big-time leader. Very unselfish.”

And a bit quirky.

A ‘weird guy’

There were the stories of his time in Philadelphia and those pet snakes, of creative dancing touchdown moves, of riding a bike and often scooter to the team complex. Of tales about alligators and lions.

Waller said Hollins is one of the five funniest people he has met. Hollins just calls himself a weird guy.

“I’m not trying to live forever,” he said. “I’m here for a short amount of time and if you don’t like me, then so be it. But I try to enjoy the time we have here because I know that a football career is even shorter than any other career.”

Here’s what that mile is really about: That when the third and fourth quarters of a game arrive, and your body is aching, you can still find the mental toughness to compete. You can still run that distance, haul in that reception, cover that kick, make that tackle.

“Conditioning is huge for me,” Hollins said. “Me saying I’m tired or hurting, that really doesn’t fly because I’m expected to be at my top no matter where I’m placed, and I know I have to be prepared for that.”

Not everyone seems in need of a post-practice run.

“I’m not aware of that,” Adams said of the Mack Hollins Mile. “I run 12 miles during practice.”

Now there’s a way to get out of it.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.