Torry Holt: NC State's Greatest Ambassador

It was hard to miss the hat. <P>As ABC's pre-game broadcast of Saturday's NFL wild card games began, the montage focused on two of the game's premier players: chrome-domed Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt. Both were wearing their teams' jerseys; Holt sported the hat.

A bright, red (PMS 185) NC State hat.

It shouldn't surprise anyone. For as much as Torry Holt is connected to the Rams, he is perhaps just as much connected to his alma mater. And it is strictly his doing. Holt is quite possibly the biggest NC State fans there is anywhere. He is also, quite arguably, the greatest ambassador any college in the United States has at the moment.

During the aforementioned broadcast, Holt in one minute was shown in Rams gear and NC State lid, and the next in a tailored, pinstripe suit with FDR-ish spectacles. He looked, and sounded, like a CEO.

An opportunity doesn't go by that "Big Game" doesn't taut the Wolfpack. If he's not wearing NC State gear (which is rare), then he's selling State stuff or posting the NC State football schedule on his website (www.torryholt.com). [Note: Holt's personal profile on his website is curiously underwhelming. He admits that he had to attend Hargrave Military Academy because of "insufficient SAT scores" and that from 1995-99 he "played wide receiver for the football team" at NC State. He goes on to say that he lived on campus at NCSU "all four years, majored in Sociology and enjoyed all the opportunities he was given." He admits thinking about leaving for the NFL after his junior season, "but opted to stay in college. Decided to stay in part because he received great advice from family and friends, as well, deep down he felt that maybe he wasn't quite ready."] During ABC/ESPN player intros, he doesn't fall into the current trend of crediting his high school (which would be Eastern Guilford) or even, as one player did recently, his elementary school. It's always, "Torry 'Big Game' Holt, North Carolina State." And he says it matter-of-factly.

For as much credit as Holt should get for actually representin' NCSU, he should get even more credit for how he represents. Aside from that tame-yet-quirky dance he came up with the year the Rams won the Super Bowl, Holt has been a model citizen. He is, you could say, the anti-Koren Robinson. (Actually, that's not fair. There are plenty of Koren Robinsons in the NFL; there are just very few Torry Holts, it seems these days.) His charity, The Holt Foundation, named in memory of his late mother, Ojetta Holt-Shoffner, who died of cancer, has a mission for finding a cure, especially in children. Holt personally donates money for every Rams' win, every touchdown he scores and every 100-yard game each season. In addition, he recently participated in an NFL-themed celebrity "Wheel of Fortune" to raise money for charities, in which Holt did quite well, thank you very much.

For all the good that Holt has done off the field, he is equally, if not more so, spectacular on the turf. He leads every other receiver that's ever played the game in average yards per game with 85. That's even more than one of his idols, Jerry Rice, or even more than the current crop of superstars such as Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss or Terrell Owens - more than everybody. Holt also amassed over 1,300 receiving yards this season, the fifth straight time he's done that. That makes him the only player to ever achieve such a feat. Rice didn't do it, nor did Harrison, Moss, Owens, Steve Largent or Tim Brown. Just Holt.

Amazingly enough, though, only a few of the experts talk about Holt in the same breath as the game's other great receivers. For some reason, when the topic of today's top playmakers comes up, there are the usual names: T.O., Moss, Harrison, but rarely, if ever, Torry Holt.

But that seems to be fine with Holt. He doesn't go about upstaging his contemporaries or even his teammates. Even some of the so-called good guys of the NFL, like the aforementioned Alexander or former Atlanta Falcon and current Carolina Panther broadcaster Eugene Robinson, have suffered blights to their pristine images. While others grab headlines with antics such as pulling Sharpies out of their socks during games, walking off the field before the end of the game, getting suspended for violating team policies, Holt just goes about his business. And business is good.

Of course, there's always time, and you can't tell the future. (It's why you rarely see buildings or monuments named for living people - they still have time to tarnish their images.) But you don't expect Holt to retire abruptly to enjoy a life of pot-smoking, hiking and yoga. Nor do you expect him to be arrested the night before a Super Bowl for soliciting a prostitute, or complaining about coming up a yard or two short of the season-high in yards received. Nor do you expect him to moon opposing teams' fans.

What we have come to expect is this: Torry Holt catching pass after pass, making play after play, and smiling all the way. And always representing his alma mater.


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