Legendary St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt wasn’t known as “Big Game” for nothing.
Holt always came through in the clutch for “The Greatest Show on Turf,” a high-octane offense that lit up the opposition on a weekly basis.
His work ethic, eagerness to learn, and consistency set him apart from other wideouts.
Holt’s stellar resume includes seven Pro Bowl nods, a Super Bowl XXXIV ring, and six straight seasons of at least 1,300 receiving yards.
Now, he’s on the brink of entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When that day comes, it will validate Torry Holt’s status as one of the best wide receivers in the history of the NFL.
Torry Jabar Holt was born to parents Odell and Ojetta in Gibsonville, NC on June 5, 1976.
He has a younger brother Terrence who played safety for the Detroit Lions from 2003 to 2006. They have a sister named Tasha.
According to The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, the Holt brothers and their friends spent their time playing football, baseball, and basketball on makeshift fields and courts in Gibsonville.
It was during that time when Torry Holt developed his uncanny abilities to catch the football.
He honed his football-catching prowess while evading dumpsters that lined up the streets in his neighborhood.
Holt met then-Gibsonville recreation department director Jane Smith when he was a preschooler.
Smith told The Athletic in December 2021 she knew Holt was destined for greatness the moment they met:
“I knew then that he was gonna make it, that he was gonna be something great. He was a leader. He wanted to play all the time.”
“Born with charisma. Such a likeable person. Always a smile, always a lot of heart.”
She had followed Holt’s career since then. In fact, she watched his games and collected newspaper clippings that featured him during his days at North Carolina State and the NFL.
When Holt was a teenager, he pulled leaves from muddy fields to help his parents make ends meet, per Rodrigue.
— Brian Hall (@bhallwfmy) November 10, 2015
Torry Holt attended Eastern Guillford High School.
He played wide receiver, punt returner, and defensive back for the Eastern Guillford Wildcats.
Holt had 2,573 receiving yards and 42 touchdowns on 129 receptions during his high school football career.
Consequently, he earned All-State honors. The Charlotte Observer also named Holt one of the Top 25 players in North Carolina in 1998.
Holt remained in-state and played lights out for a mediocre North Carolina State Wolfpack squad.
College Days With The Hargrave Tigers And North Carolina State Wolfpack
The North Carolina Tar Heels, Virginia Tech Hokies, Syracuse Orange, and Notre Dame Fighting Irish all had Holt on their radar.
Unfortunately, Holt didn’t qualify academically, so he started his college football career at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, VA.
Holt suited up for the Hargrave Tigers as a true freshman and had 524 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 21 receptions in 1995.
Holt told NCSU.edu’s Tim Peeler in 2019 he hit the books hard so he could keep his grades up and eventually transfer to North Carolina State University.
“NC State showed me a tremendous amount of loyalty and I wanted to return that loyalty,” he said. “Plus, I wanted to be here in the area near my mother and so my family could see me play.”
Holt’s sheer determination paid enormous dividends.
When he received his passing SAT marks in the mail, a jubilant Holt punched the brick walls in the barracks so hard, his knuckles bled, per The Athletic.
He couldn’t care less. He was on his way to North Carolina State University.
Holt’s mother Ojetta succumbed to cancer at the end of Holt’s sophomore campaign at North Carolina State on December 27, 1996.
His younger brother Terrence brought her to his games at Carter-Finley Stadium that year. Unfortunately, her poor eyesight prevented her from enjoying the game day experience, per Peeler.
Holt told Peeler his mother’s hearing allowed her to keep track of her son’s progress during the game via the loudspeakers.
“It’s why I wanted to make big plays,” Holt said. “So she could hear them say my name. That way, she knew I was doing what I loved and that I was going to be okay.”
Holt hit the weights hard during his winter workouts to keep his mind off his mother’s death. He told Peeler he did not know if he could’ve coped well had it not been for football.
His coaches, teammates, and friends at North Carolina State helped him go through his time of mourning and grieving.
Torry Holt singled out his scintillating five-touchdown performance against the second-ranked Florida State Seminoles in September 1998 as his favorite moment in his college football career, per SI.com:
“My junior year in Tallahassee. Those five touchdowns versus Florida State and the level of competition that they presented – some would say was a coming-out party for me. I think that sums up who I was and kind of launched me.”
“I was like, I can do this. I can play with anybody in the country. That game is what best defines Torry Holt.”
Unfortunately, the Wolfpack lost, 48-35. Holt had all of North Carolina State’s touchdowns.
TORRY HOLT TO THE HOUSE.
— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) June 13, 2021
Holt’s 88 receptions in his junior year at North Carolina State stood as a school record for 20 years.
The Wolfpack weren’t a competitive bunch during Torry Holt’s tenure in Raleigh, NC from 1995 to 1998.
NC State averaged a measly five wins per year during that span.
Nonetheless, Holt’s electrifying play stood out.
In four years with the Wolfpack, Holt had 3,379 receiving yards and 31 touchdowns on 191 receptions.
He earned ACC Offensive Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, and Consensus All-American honors in 1998.
The Wolfpack eventually retired his No. 81 jersey in 1999. The Wolfpack Hall of Fame inducted him fourteen years later.
Many years after Torry Holt played his final down for the Wolfpack, he considered his decision to attend North Carolina State as one of the reasons for his success on and off the gridiron, per NCSU.edu.
Holt would go on to become one of the best wide receivers in the history of the National Football League.
Pro Football Career
The then-St. Louis Rams made Torry Holt the sixth overall selection of the 1999 NFL Draft.
Holt became part of a Rams squad known for its high-octane offense that made life miserable for opposing defensive coordinators.
He completed the triumvirate of quarterback Kurt Warner, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, and running back Marshall Faulk.
“The Greatest Show On Turf” was born.
The Rams teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s gave the people of St. Louis their fondest memories of NFL football.
Torry Holt wasn’t one for glitz and glamor.
When Rams head coach Dick Vermeil picked up his rookie wide receiver at the airport, he asked him what he’d do with his bonus check.
“I said to him, I said, ‘Torry, what’s the first thing you’re gonna buy?” Vermeil told The Athletic in December 2021. “He said, ‘A new pair of jeans.’ But that’s how mature he was! He didn’t say, ‘A new Corvette.’ He said, “A new pair of jeans.'”
In terms of his pre-game ritual, Holt told Shannon Elliott of the Los Angeles Rams’ official website in 2017 it all depended on how he felt on game day.
Depending on Holt’s mood, he listened to music, took a nap, warmed up on the field before kickoff, read a gameday magazine in the locker room, or sat back and watched his teammates do their pre-game rituals.
2000 NFL MVP Marshall Faulk knew Torry Holt was no ordinary rookie.
Faulk was impressed with Holt’s maturity and eagerness to learn, per TheRams.com:
“I mean, he was a grown man as a rookie,” Faulk said. “But the best part was just how eager he was to learn. A lot of tangibles that a lot of young guys (are missing), he had coming in.”
Holt was so eager to learn, he took copious notes during film sessions and read scouting and media reports of his teammates and their opponents.
He also studied his playbook even on his bus rides to the Trans World Dome (now known as The Dome at America’s Center) for Rams home games.
Rams senior communications director Artis Twyman told Rodrigue that Holt regularly stayed after practice working on the JUGS machine, catching extra passes, or doing film study late into the night.
No wonder the man known as “Big Game” always came through for the Rams in the clutch.
“I wanted to be known for being really good in my craft, in my sport,” he told The Athletic.
His exemplary work ethic bore fruit once again.
If there was one wideout who started his NFL career like a house on fire, it was Torry Holt.
Holt has the most receiving yards through a player’s first five years in the league.
His 6,784 yards with the Rams from 1999 to 2003 eclipsed Randy Moss’ production by a scant 41 yards.
Holt himself validated this fact with SI.com’s Walter Iooss, Jr. in a July 31, 2019 interview.
“Yep,” Holt confirmed. “I had 6,784 yards and (Randy) Moss had 6,743.”
Despite Holt’s rip-roaring start to his NFL career, he would’ve told his rookie self to become more of a vocal leader, per the Rams’ official website.
Holt felt becoming more vocal would’ve been better not only for himself, but for the team as well.
The quartet of Holt, Warner, Bruce, and Faulk was part of a St. Louis Rams juggernaut that regularly demolished the opposition from 1999 to 2001.
During that time frame, the Rams won an average of twelve games a year.
Call it beginner’s luck, call it what you will: Torry Holt earned his first and only Super Bowl ring as a rookie in 1999.
Holt had a nine-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXIV.
It gave the Rams a commanding 16-0 lead over the Tennessee Titans after the PAT.
However, the Titans fought back and knotted the count at 16 apiece after Al Del Greco converted on a field goal in the fourth quarter.
In the Rams’ first play of the ensuing drive, quarterback Kurt Warner found Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown that made it 23-16 for St. Louis.
Rams linebacker Mike Jones’ game-saving tackle on Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson clinched the Rams’ first Super Bowl title.
Rookie Torry Holt was a Super Bowl champion.
Consistency was Torry Holt’s trademark as a wide receiver. He raised the bar like few others could.
Torry Holt is one of four wide receivers with multiple 1,600 yard seasons and should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame pic.twitter.com/82yzSlGrmK
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 27, 2016
As of 2019, Holt’s six consecutive seasons of at least 1,300 receiving yards is an NFL record.
His eight straight seasons of at least 1,100 receiving yards are second behind the great Jerry Rice’s nine.
Little wonder Holt considers Rice the best wide receiver in NFL history, per SI.com.
For his part, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner told SI.com Holt’s consistency put him in the upper echelon of wide receivers:
“There are guys who are consistently really, really good and you knew every year what you were going to get. That was Torry.”
“He played as high a level as anyone year in and year out. Without dropping off, playing at that particular level, even with all the unbelievable talent around him, that to me is what speaks volumes.”
Holt wore No. 88 when he entered the National Football League in 1999. He changed his jersey number to 81 prior to the 2002 NFL campaign.
From 2002 to 2008, the Rams were a shade of their old selves. They averaged just seven victories per season.
Consequently, they missed the postseason five times in seven years.
It was a tumultuous time for the Rams, who went through four coaching changes since they fired Mike Martz on January 2, 2006.
While St. Louis was in decline, Torry Holt wasn’t and far from it.
During the Rams’ fall from the ranks of the elite, Holt kept his insane streak of 1,000-plus yard seasons alive.
Holt enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2003.
He led the league in both receptions (117) and receiving yardage (1,696 yards) that year.
To nobody’s surprise, he earned the third of his seven career Pro Bowl nods. He also earned First-Team All-Pro honors.
Holt’s tenure in St. Louis ended on a sad note: the Rams averaged a paltry three victories in 2007 and 2008.
Holt failed to crack the 1,000-yard receiving mark both times.
The Rams granted Holt’s request for his release on March 13, 2009.
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed him to a three-year, $20 million deal five weeks later.
When Torry Holt was a Jaguar. @AllHands81 (2009)
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) December 4, 2021
Holt had 722 receiving yards on 51 receptions. However, he didn’t have a touchdown catch for the first time in his 11-year NFL career.
The Jaguars eventually released him on February 21, 2010.
The New England Patriots signed Holt to a one-year, $1.7 million contract on April 21, 2010.
Unfortunately, Holt sustained a knee injury that prompted the Patriots to put him on injured reserve. They released him with an injury settlement just four months after acquiring him.
Holt signed a ceremonial contract with the St. Louis Rams on April 4, 2012. The deal allowed him to retire as a member of the team.
It was only fitting Holt ended his illustrious NFL career where it began thirteen years earlier, per NFL.com:
“I loved everything about being a Ram, and I feel blessed that I’m able to formally finish my career with the organization that drafted me in 1999.”
“This is where it all started, and it’s fitting that this is also where it ends.”
Torry Holt’s 920 receptions rank him 22nd all-time in NFL history. His 13,382 receiving yards are the 16th-most in league history.
He is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of 2000s (Offense).
Torry Holt lived up to his “Big Game” moniker in more ways than one.
Is Torry Holt a Hall of Famer? 🤔 @BigGame81
🐏 7x Pro Bowler
🐏 Super Bowl XXXIV Champion
🐏 NFL 2000s All-Decade Team
🐏 1 of 2 players in NFL history with 6 straight 1,300+ receiving seasons (Julio Jones) pic.twitter.com/2wSw8ahh5I
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) July 28, 2020
Even during his days on the gridiron, Torry Holt took pride in his off-field versatility.
“I’m an all-around guy,” he wrote on his Monday Night Football diary on ESPN.com during his early years in St. Louis. “I’m not just a football player. I’m a good, wholesome young man.”
“I can cook, I clean, and I dress well. I just try to be a solid citizen in all areas.”
When Elliott asked Holt who was the best teammate he ever played with, he didn’t single out an individual.
Instead, he rattled off big names such as Kurt Warner, Orlando Pace, Aeneas Williams, Isaac Bruce, and Marshall Faulk.
Holt singled out Warner because of his gunslinging abilities. On the other hand, Williams’ work ethic at defensive back impressed Holt to no end.
He also shared a story of how Pace, a massive 6’7″, 325-lb. left tackle who protected Warner’s blindside, eclipsed him in game day photographs, per Elliott:
“I was able to get the best view watching Orlando do his work off the line of scrimmage because he played left tackle and I played the ‘X’ position, so I was always on his side.”
“I would always get swallowed up in the pictures because he was so much bigger than i was so I was never seen in the pictures.”
Holt told the Rams’ official website he enjoyed playing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs’ tough, rugged, and physical play brought out the best in the Rams wide receiver and his teammates.
Holt loved visiting the Bay Area whenever the Rams played the San Francisco 49ers.
“San Francisco – love the food, shopping, and weather in San Francisco,” he told Ellliott in 2017. “I also loved the history of the football stadium (Candlestick Park) where we played.”
Torry Holt also has an insane memory. According to Rodrigue, he’d call Vermeil every year on his birthday without fail.
Torry Holt and his wife have three children who are in their late teens to early 20s.
He coached his son Brayden at Heritage High School in Wake Forest, NC.
He and his brother Terrence established the Holt Brothers, Inc. after their mother Ojetta passed away due to lymphoma in 1996.
Torry Holt is currently the company’s vice president.
The company’s branches include Holt Brothers Construction, Holt Brothers Development, Holt Brothers Football, and the Holt Brothers Foundation. It specializes in commercial real estate, youth football, and activities geared toward helping children whose parents have cancer.
It’s mission is “to create a thriving company that provides jobs, grows the economy, and benefits the greater good…and matches their success on the football field,” per its official website.
Holt also does media work for SiriusXM Radio.
— Torry Holt (@AllHands81) October 14, 2021
He coached the Los Angeles Rams during their organized team activities (OTAs) in the spring of 2018.
Holt coached a Rams receiving corps that included Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, MIke Thomas, Pharoh Cooper, and Josh Reynolds.
“Just trying to get a feel for coaching, and if this is something that I want to pursue maybe going forward,” Holt told The Los Angeles Times’ Gary Klein on June 4, 2018.
Holt also currently works in a leadership capacity for the NFL Legends organization. Retired players would call him at all hours of the day seeking his insight on life during retirement, per The Athletic.
The College Football Hall of Fame inducted Holt on October 9, 2019.
For all of Torry Holt’s accolades on the gridiron, one has eluded him all these years: the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Holt was a finalist for the Classes of 2020 and 2021. Alas, he didn’t make the final cut.
He got another shot at redemption when he was named a finalist for the Class of 2022 in December 2021.
Holt told SI.com in 2019 finally wearing that gold jacket and getting a bust in Canton would validate all the hard work he put in all these years:
“It’s a mindset for me. If I get in, great. If I don’t, in my mind the way I worked and the way I approached, I’m a Hall of Famer.”
“But it’s different obviously when you put that jacket on and the world now knows. I want the world to know that I was considered on that level.”
Former NC State and St. Louis Rams receiver Torry Holt making a case for himself for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Those who saw him, like myself, knows he's a Hall of Famer. #HoltfortheHall #HallOfFamer pic.twitter.com/WQQMyd4wFA
— ABC11Charlie Mickens (@GameDayCharlie) July 22, 2019
Holt likes to spend his free time dabbling in writing and music.
“I’ve gotten into writing, so I journal,” he told the Los Angeles Rams’ official website in 2017. “Also music, reading, and spending ample time with my family. I have a record player so I go to the record store and I play and spin records.”