ACC Legends Week: NC State's Torry Holt

Nov. 17, 2012

Torry Holt (NC State, 1995-98), one of the top receivers in Atlantic Coast Conference history, was named ACC Football Player of the Year in 1998 after setting league single-season records of 88 receptions and 1,604 receiving yards in just 11 games. Holt's record of 1,604 receiving yards still stands as the ACC's single-season record and his per-game average for that year (145.8) is still the eighth-best mark in NCAA FBS history. A two-time first-team All-ACC selection for head coach Mike O'Cain, his average of 8.0 receptions per game is an ACC single-season mark and his total of 88 catches that year is still the second best in league history. In 1997, he set an ACC single-game record for most touchdown catches, making 5 against third-ranked Florida State. A consensus All-America in 1998, he ranks second on the ACC's career receiving yardage list with 3,379 yards. A first-round selection and the 6th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams, Holt played 11 seasons in the NFL, 10 of those with the Rams. He was named to the Pro Bowl seven times and twice (2003, 2006) was named All-Pro, making 920 catches for 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns. He holds NFL records for most consecutive seasons with 1,300 or more yards (6), most consecutive seasons with 90 or more catches (6). While with the Rams, he was a member of two Super Bowl teams, including helping the Rams to the championship of Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 in which he set NFL Super Bowl rookie records for most catches (7) and receiving yards (109). A native of Gibsonville, N.C., he currently resides in Raleigh, N.C.

You really hit your stride as a receiver your last two years at NC State. You and (quarterback) Jamie Barnette seemed to constantly be on the same page.

My junior year and his sophomore year (1997), we were roommates, and we were growing. Jamie understood the passing game and had an unbelievable arm. He could make every throw on the football field. And then what I could do on the outside – getting open, running routes and making plays after the catch – playing within the offense, and having other guys thrive off what I was doing. That is when things really started to take off. And then heading into my senior year, we had an unbelievable offseason. I remember something had happened to Jamie’s knee, but he fought through that, and he came out and was just putting the ball on the money to everybody. I was in a position where I could do everything on the football field, and he could make every throw. We just connected, and it was like magic.

You had the big game against Florida State in Tallahassee your junior year with five touchdown catches, and then your senior year against them brought one of the great wins in school history. What was it about FSU that brought out the best in you?

For me, personally, I think a lot of it had to do with my freshman year when Florida State kicked us in the teeth (by a score of 77-17). I never forgot that. I remember their mascot throwing that flaming spear down in the middle of the field and the whole crowd, the whole atmosphere. If you want to make a name for yourself, and for your university, this was the team to do it against. That’s how we looked at it. That’s how everybody looked at Florida State in the ACC. And they had the players – they were always the team that sent the great players to the pros, who got the best athletes out of high school, that had the phenomenal college players. If you wanted to see how you matched up, you had to go through those guys, and if you were able to dethrone them, you looked like a giant.

You weren’t quite able to do that your junior year, but you had the great individual game. The next year came the big upset you pulled off in Raleigh. Which do you remember most?

My junior year down there where I had the five touchdown catches was unbelievable. But the next year, we came back strong as a group. We made plays both offensively and defensively, and we were able to beat them.

Was that game your highlight as a college player?

Yes, I would say that game was definitely the highlight of my career. I remember the punt return (68 yards for a touchdown). The wall was just up so perfect, and the teamwork that went into that play … Everybody got a man, and I was able to make a guy miss. I got free, took a bang and still kept my balance. I showed a little bit of everything on that play – balance, speed, control, hands, vision, allowing my teammates to set up blocks. Everything was showcased a little bit on that play.

And later came your long touchdown catch toward the end that pretty much sealed it.

Jamie, once again, had a nice throw on a post (route). I was able to split the corner and the safety, keep my concentration on the throw and finish. And then, to see everybody rushing the field, and carrying that goalpost down Hillsborough Street – that had to be my biggest thrill, at least college-wise.

And the first game of your junior season at Syracuse (in which you caught a game-winning two-point conversion pass in overtime) must rank high as well, doesn’t it?

Yes, we went up there and beat them in the Carrier Dome. We always seemed to play our best football against the best teams, and it has been that way at NC State for a long time. I just looked forward to playing those caliber teams. For me personally, if you were one of those teams, I wanted to show that I could compete with you. Just because you are deemed this top university or this top guy, doesn’t mean I don’t feel that I am just as good. If we are on the field, I am trying to put you to the test and you are trying to put me to the test. I’ve got to find a way to come out with the win. That’s the way I always tried to treat it.

When the call came to go for two points in overtime of that game, were you surprised at all?

No, I wasn’t, because we came there to win the ballgame. It was a great call by Coach (Mike) O’Cain. He didn’t even hesitate. When you make a decision like that on the fly and there’s no hesitation, guys know we are there to win. Jamie got us in the huddle, very controlled, and he called the play. I motioned down, the tight end released up the field, and I was able to come across free. Jamie looked, scanned across and found me all the way over on the other side for the touchdown. To be able to execute that play on the road against Syracuse – well, that’s why you play the game. There was nothing better than running down the sidelines and seeing (Syracuse coach) Paul Pasqualoni just standing there like, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?’ It was sweet, man. It was sweet!

What did you think when NC State drummed up the Holt for Heisman Campaign in 1998?

That was cool. That showed me how the university felt about me and where I stood in collegiate football. I didn’t win the Heisman, but to have that kind of support from my school and to give them the opportunity to campaign for the Heisman was a tremendous honor. I took pride in that, and it made me want to go out and prove that I was Heisman worthy.

You left NC State as an All-American and All-ACC and with many other honors. You left about the time your brother, Terrence, was coming in. He wound up earning All-America and All-ACC honors as a defensive player. Had you thrown down any challenges to him along those lines, to keep it in the family?

I just tried to lead by example more than anything. I can count on one hand how many times that I’ve had to challenge Terrence like that. I tried to lead by example, and I think he did a good job of staying the course. But at the same time, he has his own flavor of how he likes to do things. At the end of the day, we are both striving for the same thing, and at the time we were playing collegiate football that was perfection: being really good, All-America status, etc. ‘Keeping it in the family’ – yeah, that was always going to be there. But I would just tell him: ‘Work to the best of your abilities, not mine, and be the best that you can be.‘

You went on from NC State to the NFL and the Rams. You wound up in the same rookie class there with Dre’ Bly from North Carolina. He is in this year’s ACC Legends Class with you. After all the head-to-head battles you had did you ever imagine that: a) you would be teammates together in the NFL and b) recognized as members of the same ACC Legends Class?

I had no idea. Dre’ and I were competitors against one another. He may not have liked me at times, and vice versa, but that brought out the best in us when we stepped out on the football field. He was one of the top cornerbacks in the nation, there in the Triangle area, representing UNC. And I was there on the other side at NC State. I said, ‘I’ve got to see what this guy is about.’

And you did push each other, didn’t you?

You saw that when we played against each other. And then for us to take that same competitiveness, that same intensity to the St. Louis Rams together and to win a Super Bowl as rookies – he made plays, I made plays. We competed in practice the same way we did when we were in college. We didn’t take a day off going against one another. To win a Super Bowl with him was very special. And now, his kids know my kids, our wives know each other. Now to be going in as Legends together and thinking back to when we were 18, 19 years old – we were fierce competitors at times, and there were times when we didn’t like each other –to go in as friends like this is a good feeling. I am happy for him to the utmost. He pushed me and made me better, and I hope I was able to push him.

The Rams had so many offensive weapons, it must have been exciting when they brought you to join them.

It was a really nice fit. I hear people ask, ‘Was it the scheme? Was it the talent?’ I think in my case it was both. It was just a matter of whether my talent could match up with the scheme, if I could comprehend it and put the two together. I was able to do that early on because I had guys like Isaac Bruce, Ricky Proehl, Az-Zahir Akim and Tony Horne. Our receiving corps was tight. I love all of those guys and have tremendous respect for them. They taught me a lot about football and about life. I was able to incorporate my style and my talents to their system, just as I had done at NC State.

You are back in Raleigh, and have several things going on there, correct?

Yes, we have the Holt Foundation, which is dedicated to helping young kids whose parents are battling cancer. We work with the Alamance Regional Hospital, Rex Hospital and Duke Hospital through Kids Can!, which provides emotional and educational support to those groups through various activities. We just had a science camp here at NC State, where kids came over from Rex and learned about several new creative and innovative ways they are looking at now in an effort to cure cancer. We also have started Holt Brothers Construction, and we are currently working on several projects around the area. We are excited about the direction that is going. And, most importantly, I’m raising my little ones … and trying to keep my wife happy.