Hollenbach challenged for Maryland's starting quarterback job last season, only to lose out to Joel Statham. His stock tumbled as he fell behind Jordan Steffy for the backup job, too.
His days were numbered. The disappointment that came from not playing mounted. But the junior planned to stay with the program, at least until the end of the 2004 season. Then Statham faltered and Steffy was injured.
Maryland needed a big game against Wake Forest to salvage an otherwise lost season. The Terps looked to Hollenbach.
"At the end of the season, I was going to sit down with the coaches and make a decision," Hollenbach said. "The end of the season was a blessing.
"I talked to the coaches and it's been great. I didn't expect them to promise me playing time. They couldn't do that. I was just looking for honesty."
All the honesty Hollenbach needed came from the Wake game. He guided the Terps to a season-ending 13-7 win that caught the attention of coach Ralph Friedgen.
"He was put in a very tough situation at Virginia Tech and did some things that were very good for a guy that didn't practice much," Friedgen said. "In the Wake Forest game, he was good enough for us to win. He didn't make any mistakes."
That was good enough to sell Friedgen, who saw major inconsistency behind center the entire season. The passing attack and running game both sputtered at the same time, turning the Terps into sitting ducks.
Hollenbach changed that, at least for one game. And the toughness he showed by staying with it when things were going against him earned him Friedgen's vote.
"Sam Hollenbach is undefeated," Friedgen said. "What I admire is his perseverance," Friedgen said. "He didn't make any excuses and when his opportunity came, he made the most of it. He had a good spring. He's shown me an awful lot. The job is Sam's to lose."
Like any good quarterback, Hollenbach had great timing and took the time to see the whole field before making his final decision. But instead of following the process on a play, it was for his whole college career.
"This has been great," he said. "It has all been a 180-degree turnaround. I'm not trying to do anything different. I'm just going to go out there and practice hard everyday, compete and have fun. I'll let Coach make the decisions."
Hollenbach will not have the total control that was allowed Shaun Hill and Scott McBrien in Friedgen's first three years at Maryland. But he needs to be more polished in the quarterback role than last year's signal callers were.
"To me, it is just managing the offense and playing within the system is big," Hollenbach said. "That's what the coaches like to stress. I think consistency is important. If I play within the offense and do these things, I'll be fine."
After all, perseverance is the thing that got Hollenbach where he is today.
"I'm going to go in and prepare to play," he said. "I have to do the things I have to do with confidence and leave the mistakes behind me. I've been blessed compared to where I've been."