BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Trindon Holliday used to bug his mother to let him play football. He always got the same response.
No, Trindon, you're just too small.
``She didn't want to see me get hurt,'' he remembered.
Holliday wouldn't give up, though, finally persuading her to let him suit up in seventh grade. He's been running ever since.
These days, Holliday is probably the fastest player in college football, a devastating change-of-pace weapon for No. 1 LSU. He's usually the smallest guy on the field, too, a 5-foot-5 sophomore who looks as if he has no business lining up with all these big guys - until he runs by them.
``Speed kills,'' said one of his teammates, safety Craig Steltz. ``It doesn't matter how big you are if they can't hit you or catch up to you. He does a great job of making guys miss. You never really get a clean shot on him.''
Gowing up in Zachry, Holliday always wanted to play for his home-state team. But he attracted plenty of raised eyebrows and skeptical glances when he showed up for his first practice. Heck, you could barely see him when he lined up in the backfield, even when the linemen got down in their stances.
``I didn't know who he was,'' quarterback Matt Flynn said. ``I thought he was a walk-on or something.''
Until Holliday started running.
``I was like, 'Wow, that guy is special,''' Flynn said. ``That first day, he dropped everyone's jaw out there. He was making cuts so fast. You knew he had to be a special athlete to be that small and play this game.''
As a freshman, Holliday was nearly as valuable as a decoy as when he got the ball. His mere presence in the backfield would send defenses scrambling, trying to make sure they didn't allow him any running room, which usually opened up holes for LSU's other backs.
``When I get on the field, they'll be like, '8 is in the game, 8 is in the game,''' he said, no doubt satisfied to have such an impact. ``They'll be trying to switch their defense to where I'm at.''
With good reason. Holliday averaged 12.3 yards a carry last season, and he also had a 92-yard kickoff return against Arkansas that turned out to be the winning touchdown.
Even though he's the smallest player on the team - yep, he's even 3 inches shorter than kicker Colt David - Holliday is getting the ball more this season.
He's already taken 22 handoffs in the first five games, ranking third on the team in rushing with 147 yards. He broke off a 33-yard touchdown against South Carolina, bursting through a hole on the right side before any of the defenders had time to realize he was already gone.
The Tigers are using their versatile running game to full advantage, averaging just more than 223 yards on the ground. Bruising senior Jacob Hester (a team-leading 327 yards, four touchdowns) handles the between-the-tackles carries. Sophomore Keiland Williams (226 yards, 7.5 per carry, four TDs) provides a combination of speed and power. And the 160-pound Holliday is pure speed.
``We usually try to get him out in space,'' Flynn said. ``We don't try to run him much up the middle. Outside is where he's most effective. But he's taken some hits. He actually ran someone over last week (at Tulane), which was impressive.''
Holliday's speed isn't confined to the football field. He's a two-sport athlete, also starring on the LSU track team - where he doesn't have to worry about getting hit at the end of his runs.
This past spring, Holliday set a school record in the 100 meters (10.2 seconds) and finished second in that event at the NCAA championships.
``Track and football help each other out a lot,'' he said. ``When I'm on the track, I do a lot of sprinting. Once I get over here, I'm in that much more shape. I can work a little harder to maintain what I picked up in track.''
Holliday shrugs off the demands of playing two sports at such a high level, though he never really has an offseason.
``It's not as tough as everyone thinks it is,'' he said. ``It's at different times. There is time to be with the football team and time to be with the track team.''
Does he have a favorite?
Holliday shakes his head. He's not sure which sport will take him further in his athletic career, so he's treating them as equals.
``Right now, I don't have to make a decision,'' Holliday said. ``I'm just going to work hard at both of them while I'm at the college level. Then, whatever comes, comes.''
Holding the top spot in The Associated Press rankings for the first time since 1959, LSU (5-0) heads into a crucial game against ninth-ranked Florida on Saturday night.
Rest assured, the Gators (4-1) will be trying to keep an eye on No. 8.
Good luck with that, said LSU defensive star Glenn Dorsey, who gets to chase Holliday around at practice.
``You can't really get a hit on him,'' Dorsey said with a chuckle. ``You can try if you want, but some kind of way he'll move at the last second and make you look stupid.''
Never mind that Dorsey is 9 inches taller than Holliday and outweighs him by more than 140 pounds.
``I've tried to make a deal with him,'' the massive lineman said. ``I won't hit you hard - if you'll just stop for me every once in a while.''

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