Torry Holt comes full circle with NC Sports Hall of Fame induction

Former NC State and NFL receiver Torry Holt speaks during his induction into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame on April 22 at the Raleigh Convention Center. (Brett Friedlander / North State Journal)

Torry Holt is already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the St. Louis Rams Hall of Fame and the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame.

He’s twice been a finalist for inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The former Eastern Guilford High School and NC State star has been honored so many times for his accomplishments on the gridiron that induction ceremonies have become almost routine.

But that wasn’t the case with his most recent enshrinement because of where it is and what it represents.

“This one is special because it’s home. It’s where I grew up,” Holt said upon his entry into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame last month. “This feels good. And I don’t take it lightly.”

A sure-handed pass-catcher who still holds Wolfpack school records for receiving yards in a career (3,379), season (1,604) and game (255 against Baylor in 1998), Holt earned the nickname “Big Game” because of his penchant for playing his best when the stakes were highest.

It’s an ability that grew from seeds planted on a field in his hometown of Gibsonville.

Just not a football field.

“I pulled tobacco as a 14-15-year-old, and I vowed I would never go back to that field ever again,” he said. “The sap, the heat, fighting off snakes and everything that went with it, immediately I said I’ll do this now because I had to do it to get cleats and different things for school. But I was like there’s got to be something better than this.

“I said I gotta do something in sports, so I strengthened my hands and strengthened my forearms to go out, catch passes and make a career out of football.”

Holt was honored along with 10 other new inductees in a ceremony at the Raleigh Convention Center on April 22.

The other members of the 2022 class are fellow football stars Sam Mills and Timmy Newsome, basketball players Missouri Arledge, Henry Bibby and Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, basketball coach Dave Robbins, major leaguer Luke Appling, golf coach Dan Brooks, athletic trainer Ronnie Barnes and television personality Tom Suiter.

The North State Journal’s selection as the best athlete produced by Guilford County as part of its 100 in 100 series, Holt caught 42 touchdown passes during a high school career that earned him prep All-American honors.

Despite that success, it took a year at Hargrave Military Academy working to improve his SAT scores before then-State coach Mike O’Cain took a chance on him by becoming one of the few to offer him a college scholarship.

“I love Coach O’Cain to this day for taking me in,” Holt said. “He and the staff at NC State believed in me and gave me an opportunity to fulfill my dreams as a collegiate athlete, achieve what I was able to achieve on the football field and continue to go on to represent my state.”

Holt wasted little time becoming an integral part of the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” after being taken as the sixth overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

He caught 52 passes with six touchdowns during his rookie season while helping his team to the 2000 Super Bowl, then went on to record 1,300 or more receiving yards in an NFL record six straight seasons.

He earned seven Pro Bowl selections in 11 seasons, and his 13,382 career receiving yards ranked 13th all-time at the time of his retirement.

As much as Holt accomplished in football, he’s been equally if not more prolific since leaving the sport.

He’s dabbled in broadcasting and coaching, and he teamed with his younger brother Terrence — also a former NC State and NFL football player — to form a successful construction company.

His most important contributions have come through the Holt Brothers Foundation, an entity dedicated to helping children understand and deal with a parent suffering from cancer. It’s an organization dedicated to his mother Ojetta Holt-Shoffner, who died of lymphoma in 1996 at the age of 43.

“It means a lot to us to do well in the community, and it’s even better because we’re at home in the state where we grew up,” Holt said. “And now here I am being inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

“I tell young people that you don’t necessarily have to leave home to do well. Although I went away for a while, I think my brother and I are examples of that. North Carolina is always home. That’s what makes this so special because I can share it with people that have watched me from Pop Warner to high school to college and with people who don’t know me on a personal level, but cheered me on from afar.”