Oct. 23, 2013
Purchase tickets | 2013 Hall of Fame Class
RALEIGH, N.C. - In Torry Holt’s home there isn’t visible evidence a former All-Pro football player lives there.
His 2000 Super Bowl ring, multiple individual awards and paraphernalia are stored in boxes.
Not that Holt isn’t grateful for all of it. He is, and if he ever displayed those prized possessions his house would look like a memorabilia museum.
At NC State he was a record-shattering receiver, consensus first-team All-American (1999), ACC Player of the Year (1998) and No. 6 pick in the NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams.
His ensuing 11-year professional career was even better, including seven pro bowl appearances, two All-Pro honors, several records set, and selection to the league’s All-Decade Team.
Given that resume, it’s easy to see why Holt is going in State’s Athletic Hall of Fame in November.
After a stellar prep career at East Guilford, and a year at Hargrave Military Academy, Holt struck like a lightning bolt at NC State.
He set 12 Wolfpack receiving records and enjoyed a special, defining moment in a 1997 game at Florida State.
Holt recalls feeling considerable “nervousness” going against the mighty Seminoles that day in Doak Campbell Stadium’s war-chanting, tomahawk-chopping atmosphere.
But it was FSU that wound up with the jitters. Holt got in that “zone” -- and the end zone. He ran routes as if guided by a GPS, got open, caught the ball and “Torry-ized” the Noles by scoring five touchdowns.
“That was the greatest individual performance I’ve ever witnessed,’’ said Joe Pate, a former State assistant and long-time coach. “(FSU) tried everything they knew, still couldn’t slow him down. He had a knack for getting open and when he made the catch, that’s when the action really started.”
Holt flashed 4.38 speed in the 40-yard sprint and that day nobody in Tallahassee could have caught him.
He had many other big games, like the 15 catches against Wake Forest and 255 receiving yards against Baylor. He was “Big Game” Holt, who set the ACC’s all-time reception yardage mark (3,379) that has since been eclipsed.
Blessed with God-given ability, Holt displayed a work ethic that likely developed during his teen years toiling in farm fields around Gibsonville, his hometown.
At NC State he would snag between 100 and 300 passes from a machine some days and work with quarterbacks after practice, refining routes and catching more balls.
“I approached practice as if I was trying to make the team, still trying to prove myself,’’ said Holt, a philosophy he maintained the NFL. “It was doing the job at a high level every day, practicing hard.”
While Holt caught everybody’s eye catching passes and running rampant with the ball, it was his desire to play on special teams that made him extra special to coaches and teammates at NC State.
“In this day and time, offensive and defensive starters think they are too good to play on special teams,’’ Pate said. “Torry was just the opposite. Anytime your best player wants to be on special teams, it sends a message to everybody. He was such a positive influence.”
“It was another way to help the team,’’ Holt said. “I enjoyed being out there.”
There were some hard knocks along the way. The biggest jolt for Holt came his sophomore year, when his mother died of cancer.
“It was a tough time; Mom was the backbone of our family,’’ said Holt, who dedicated his games to her.
Later Holt and brother, Terrence, who played safety at NC State, created a foundation in her memory to help support children whose parents are victimized by cancer.
A more upbeat time came on NFL draft day in 1999 when Holt gathered with his family, teammates and friends in Gibsonville for a fish fry.
When his name was called, Holt said the “the whole place went crazy” in celebration.
The NFL was a different league, a different world, but Holt adjusted quickly. He learned from St. Louis’ veteran receivers, studied, worked sedulously in practice helping his team win the Super Bowl as a rookie.
Soon Holt put together a sizzling streak of six consecutive seasons with more than 1,300 receiving yards and 90 receptions, a league record. He was at his brilliant best in 2003, catching 117 passes for 1,696 yards.
If a ball was catchable, Holt could catch it: One handed, two handed, leaping, diving, short routes, long routes. Check his “Big Game Holt” highlights on youtube.
Still, Holt -- who amassed 10,000 receiving yards the quickest in NFL history -- hasn’t forgotten a ball he dropped in a playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers.
“It hit my finger tips, and as I was bringing it in, I was losing my balance, the ball got away,” Holt lamented. “It changed the dynamic of that game.”
There was other pain in the games. Holt underwent several knee surgeries and has no ligaments in a distorted middle finger on his left hand, which he calls his “war wound.”
“It reminds me of the work, dedication and sacrifice it takes to play in the NFL,’’ Holt said.
Rams coach Mike Martz, quoted by NFL.com, called Holts “one of the all-time great NFL receivers,” which covers a lot of time and greats such as Raymond Berry, Jerry Rice and Calvin Johnson.
Though he spent a few seasons in Jacksonville and New England, Holt chose to retire in St. Louis, where he became a Ram to remember.
“The Rams will forever be grateful for the way Torry Holt represented the (organization) on the field and in the community. He is an All-Pro in every sense of the word,” team owner Chip Rosenbloom said on NFL.com.
Today, Holt is 6-1 and roughly 200 pounds, works out, stays fit and stays busy.
In addition to keeping up with three children, he and Terrence direct Holt Brothers, Inc., a four-dimensional company that includes construction, development, a charitable foundation and youth football camps.
Both brothers have remained connected with NC State and currently serve on a different University board. They also recently partnered with Danis Company in the renovation project of Reynolds Coliseum.
Now, as he awaits induction in NC State’s Athletics Hall of Fame, Torry wanted to say one more thing: “Thank you all Wolfpack fans for all (your) support. I really enjoyed playing football in front of the sea of red across the country.”
By A.J. Carr