Mack Hollins’ New Hobby Keeping Him Square During Super Bowl Week

MINNEAPOLIS — As the hub for the Patriots, Eagles, the media and a plethora of Super Bowl week events, The Mall of America is as tightly secured as a child-resistant bottle of aspirin. Bomb-sniffing dogs and policemen donning weapons can be found throughout the monstrous shopping mecca. The team hotels are even more guarded and no one through without a credential. Except for Eagles rookie wideout Mack Hollins. He doesn’t need one. Hollins just shows the security people the same identity mark that hasn’t left his hand the other 30 times he’s passed: his Rubik’s Cube.

Observing Hollins during a media session you would think he was a Rubik’s Cube savant. His hands rhythmically solve the cascade of mixed colors on the cube in 90 seconds while he concurrently answers an array of football questions. He does this over and over.

In reality, Hollins’ Rubik’s Cube obsession is just two weeks old and is not ashamed to credit YouTube tutorials with his early success. As Hollins mentions this, teammate and fellow receiver Marcus Johnson interrupts to jokingly call him a “cheater.” Hollins snaps back, “I can give it to him and he can Google it and we can see who does better.” (Rubik’s Cube trash talking!)

Hollins had never really played with a Rubik’s cube until his girlfriend gave it to him as a present. “She knows I like to get into stuff like that,” he says. Hollins has a strategic mind and is fond of another game that uses the same portion of the brain, chess. But in the lead up to Super Bowl 52, the kings and knights have been supplanted by the movable colored cubes. Hollins is almost never found without his trusty Rubik’s Cube. “I sleep close to it because it’s what I do before I go to sleep. I’ll play with it for 15 minutes before bed as I wind down.”

Hollins’ Rubik’s Cube simultaneously serves as brian training at its finest and a calming tool. Super Bowl week is truly a circus and can be overwhelming, especially for a first timer. Players need a crutch and like most millennials, every one of Hollins’ teammates is married to their smartphone. Not Hollins, though. A throwback to a different era, Hollins had no phone his last season at UNC and prefers bikes to cars. Even when there is idle time to pass, like standing in line in a supermarket or riding an elevator, Hollins opts to live in the moment instead of scrolling Instagram.

“I’d rather talk to people and make it awkward. Press the buttons and pretend like you got zapped,” he says. “It’s no fun if you just sit on your phone, like if we go to eat and we’re with the team. Everyone has a phone. Why even sit at the table, you might as well sit somewhere else.”

Hollins’ magical Rubik’s Cube has helped diminish the prevailing screen time at team dinners. Though he is constantly practicing in hopes of improving his finger moves he will succumb to teammates’ frequent requests to see if they can solve it. They can’t.

Hollins is proud of his 90 second solving time until he thinks about the Rubik’s Cube elite who can solve it in just five seconds. Hollins would like to some day attend the World Rubik’s Cube Championship held biannually but knows he has a long road ahead.

“I have to up my game. A minute and a half is not going to cut it. I might not even get a table,” he says.

International experts use the CFOP method, which focuses on individual layers as a strategy. Hollins uses a beginner method, which takes twice as many moves. He plans to work diligently to improve his skills this offseason, and is confident the free time will boost his skills. “If I was sitting on an island I could learn to do it on my own, but I have a few things to do right now,” he says.

While the preparation from the Super Bowl is intense, Hollins’ trusty cube has provided a healthy distraction. If the Eagles win Sunday, he may even encase his first Rubik’s Cube. That’s because a newer Rubik’s Cube is on its way.  A speedier, lighter version of the original that slides easier and is designed for true competitors.