Lack of vision in one eye hasn't slowed Spring Grove running back
Hunter Holland lost vision in his right eye prior to the 2022 season, but the senior remains the featured running back for the unbeaten Spring Grove football team.
SPRING GROVE — Since he was a young boy, Hunter Holland has had to deal with the possibility of getting a severe bloody nose.
Holland, now a senior at Spring Grove High School, has suffered from arteriovenous malformations in his nose since age 2, which can cause nose bleeds. But with treatments at the Mayo Clinic and medications, the nosebleeds have been rare, despite Holland’s constant activity in sports.
Back in August, shortly before Holland was getting ready to start the football season for the Lions, he was at the Mayo Clinic to get a standard procedure done. But after the treatment, heading back to Spring Grove with his mother, Bobbi, Holland noticed something was very wrong.
“On the way home, we got to Harmony and I couldn’t see out of one eye,” Holland recalled. “I told my mom and we went back (to the Mayo Clinic).”
Blood vessels had burst in Holland’s right eye and cut off his vision.
“They pumped a bunch of blood thinner into the back of my eye,” Holland said.
Despite the effort, Holland’s sight in his right eye did not return. He has lost about 95 percent of the permanent vision in the eye.
While the development was shocking, Holland was determined to keep playing football. He and the rest of the Lions had high expectations coming into the 2022 season. Holland planned to be the team's featured running back and a starter for the second straight season.
He wasn’t going to let this setback, no matter how major it might seem, interfere with his football season. As Holland recovered in the hospital, he often texted Spring Grove coach Kody Moore to say he would be ready for the first day of practice.
“It’s been pretty unbelievable,” Moore said. “Football’s his passion and he’s been working hard for his senior year, and all his years.”
Holland had to wait for doctor’s to clear him to play football. When he was given permission to play, he didn’t miss a single practice. He has been the Lions’ top running back on a team that was undefeated in the regular season. He has rushed for about 800 yards and 10 touchdowns in nine games.
“He’s just unbelievably tough,” Moore said. “He’s been through so much health-wise, it’s just good to see him have the success he’s had. He’s a great inspiration to our program.”
The lack of vision in one eye can be a challenge, but Holland has adapted.
“At first it was hard to get used to,” he said. “When you’re blind (in one eye), it’s a little harder. But after about a week, you kind of get used to everything and I am doing everything I was before.”
Holland’s depth perception is off, but his right eye was not his dominant eye. He is still able to drive and do other activities that he enjoys, such as hunt.
“My mom always said ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ and we’ve always used that,” Holland said. “So I kind of keep that in the back of my mind.”
Holland said his mother has been a tremendous support for him, along with the Spring Grove players and coaches. He has also received an outpouring of support from the close-knit community. When word spread of his condition, Holland received numerous texts and letters from community members.
All season long Holland has just been “one of the guys” and his teammates have treated him the same as in the past.
“I don’t really talk about it to them and they don’t really talk about it to me,” he said. “I just go about my day-by-day and live (normally) and don’t let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”
Holland hasn’t changed anything about the way he plays. And for the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder, that means a bruising and physical style of running the ball. The game has also been a great outlet for him.
“You just practice, have games and kind of forget about everything else in life,” he said. “I’ve just been playing how I always have. … Just hit harder than somebody hits me.”
Holland and his teammates are also reveling in the fact the Lions are 9-0 and the No. 1 seed in the Section 1 9-Man tournament. Spring Grove will host No. 4 seed Grand Meadow (6-3) in the section semifinals at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Holland also plays basketball for the Lions and is a sprinter on the track and field team. He plans on playing both sports his senior year. He has a pretty simple plan as he moves forward with his sports career at Spring Grove.
“Just overcoming whatever comes at me and not letting anything stop me from being a normal 17-year-old kid,” he said.