“Cal Hollow, you are ridiculous.”
That was a tweet I sent out on the ButteSports.com account last football season after the Butte Central football player took a punt return for a touchdown for the second time of the season.
The tweet was a goof on the over-the-top call the Chicago Bears radio man used to make when Devin Hester scored a touchdown.
At the time, I had no clue how true that tweet really was. I had no idea just how ridiculous Hollow was as he was scoring touchdowns.
Every time he crossed the goal line, he did it while wearing an insulin pump to help him live with type 1 diabetes.
Wearing an insulin pump means you have a small device attached to your waist band. That device is hooked to a needle that is constantly stuck in your body.
Hollow counts the carbohydrates of everything he eats and drinks. Then he punches the appropriate number into his pump so the right amount of insulin will be injected into his body.
Hollow, who just completed his senior season as a captain for the Maroons, wears the needle in his lower back all day, every day. Diabetes doesn’t give him time off to play football, so he wears it during practice and games, too.
“Sometimes if I get tackled and roll over the IV it kind of stings,” Hollow says. “It’s nothing too serious. I’m so used to it I don’t even notice.”
If you didn’t realize Hollow was playing through type 1 diabetes, you are not alone. Some of his teammates never even knew. Hollow isn’t the kind who plays on the sympathies of others.
“I wasn’t keeping it a secret,” Hollow says. “I’ve just been going on with my life. It’s my lifestyle.”
That lifestyle includes trips to Billings to see a specialist every three months. It also includes routinely giving himself insulin shots before a game and sometimes at halftime.
“I probably test my blood every half hour for five hours on game days,” Hollow says. “I test it five or six times a day regularly.”
Testing his blood, by the way, also involves a needle stick.
This month is National Diabetes Month. It also marks six years since Hollow was diagnosed with the life-changing ailment.
Hollow was a 12-year-old sixth grader when he started suffering severe symptoms of diabetes. He lost 15 pounds in a week, he couldn’t stop drinking water, and he had a major bout with vomiting.
A trip to Express Care in Butte ended up in a hospital stay and then a week in a pediatric intensive care unit in Missoula.
“My blood sugar was so high it wasn’t even giving a reading,” Hollow says.
In Missoula, Hollow learned, thankfully, that he didn’t have leukemia. He also learned how to count carbs for meals and how to give himself insulin injections.
He learned that would be his was way of living for the rest of his life. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, and nobody knows how to prevent it.
Hollow didn’t treat the diagnosis like a death sentence. He took the news better than you could possibly hope a boy to take it.
“I thought, ‘Alright, this is my lifestyle from now on,’” Hollow says.
That’s pretty impressive talk for a 32 year old, let alone a 12 year old.
For about a year, Hollow gave himself about 10 shots a day. Then, he was introduced to the pump.
“That pump makes my life 10 times easier,” he says.
Living with diabetes, though, is anything but easy. It doesn’t matter how cool Hollow plays it off.
“I had no idea what a 24/7 job that having type 1 diabetes was before Cal was diagnosed, and I get to forget about it every once in a while,” Hollow’s sister Shauna says. “Cal does not get to forget or pretend to not need his insulin pump to live. He is in the fight for his life every day, all day and for that, he is my hero.”
Diabetes clearly hasn’t slowed Hollow down at all. He started as point guard for the BC basketball team as a sophomore and a junior, though he is leaning against playing this season.
Hollow also started the last two seasons for the Maroons in football. He earned first-team all-conference honors at safety and as a return specialist. If he isn’t All-State this year, then call the cops because Hollow was so instrumental in the Maroons success.
Sure, he didn’t get any return touchdowns this season. That’s because teams constantly kicked away from him, resulting in great field positions for the Maroons.
In two games, including the playoffs, Hamilton kicked away from Hollow like he really was Devin Hester.
During pregame warm-ups, Hamilton’s kicker was booting field goals longer than 60 yards. Then, the Broncs continuously kicked out of bounds to keep the ball out of Hollow’s hands.
At least it looked like the Broncs were kicking out of bounds on purpose, and that gave the Maroons the ball at the 35-yard line, at worst.
“That wasn’t very fun,” Hollow says of teams kicking the ball away from him. “This year I didn’t get many chances, but I tried to make the most of the ones I got.”
Hollow still led the Southwestern A with 526 return yards on 20 chances.
At receiver, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Hollow caught 36 passes for 657 yards and four touchdowns. At free safety, Hollow was one of the top players in the state.
That is evident in the fact that he is being recruited to play football at Montana Western and Carroll College.
Perhaps more importantly, Hollow is a shining example for the many kids who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and the many more who will be.
“If there is a kid out there that has been diagnosed and thinks that he or she can’t live a healthy and active lifestyle, they’re wrong,” Shauna says. “Cal has done it and continues to do so every day. He’s learned to know his body so well that he’s able to continue to play any sport and excel at it.”
Cal Hollow shows that having type 1 diabetes doesn’t mean you have to stop being ridiculous.