DETROIT (WOOD) — Ralph Holley starts every game day the same way. The former Western Michigan Bronco listens to smooth jazz to get his mind right and calls his best friend and former teammate Dwayne Chapman, as well as his father before he steps onto the field. The latter has been giving him the same pep talk for years.

“The main part is, he always tells me, ‘Play like God is watching you. And play like there is no tomorrow,'” Holley said. “It (helps) get me there.”

His dad, also named Ralph, continues to serve as the main motivator for Holley’s career. Ralph Holley Sr. was a former high school basketball standout who won a North Carolina state championship alongside Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. Though Holley’s father never got the chance to play collegiate sports, he now gets to live his dream through his son.

“He tells me all the time, ‘Hey, I’m living vicariously through you,'” Holley Jr. said.

He got the call to join the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars toward the end of the 2022 season. With his help, the Stars made it all the way to the championship game before losing to the Birmingham Stallions.

Now in his first full season in the league, he and his family got even better news when it was announced that the Stars, alongside the Michigan Panthers, would be playing home games at Ford Field in Detroit. He’d be able to play in front of his family once again.

“When I first got the news that we were going to be in Detroit, it was just like, it was outstanding,” he said. “I was just like, ‘I can’t believe I’m right down the street and I get to play at Ford Field.’ It’s surreal and awesome that I get to be in my hometown.”

It’s a return home for Holley after spending most of his time since graduation in Chicago with the Bears and in Birmingham, Alabama, for the USFL season. He also returns to Ford Field, where he played his final high school and college games. He hopes his last game this season doesn’t end on Ford Field but rather in Canton, Ohio, where the USFL championship game will be held.

“I want to be as dominant as I can this year. Numbers-wise, position-wise, I want to be all over the field everywhere I can be,” he said. “I’m really going to challenge and push myself to be an even better player than I was in college. And yeah, get that championship. Yeah, we’re coming back for blood for that. We need that.”

Holley and the Stars’ first test will come in the opening game of the season on April 15 against the Memphis Showboats.