Torry Holt will be honored, fittingly, at the Syracuse game
On an early fall Thursday night game against Syracuse, Torry Holt was on the verge of something special.
Just like this week.
Holt, selected earlier this year as part of the 13-member 2019 class of the College Football Hall of Fame, will be honored Thursday night during the Wolfpack’s game against the ACC-foe Orange for his many career accomplishments, including more than a decade as one of the NFL’s most-feared receivers.
On Oct. 1, 1998, Holt was just trying to catch a few more passes from junior quarterback Jamie Barnette, at least enough to upset No. 11 Syracuse for the second year in a row and maybe to become NC State’s all-time leader in career receiving yards.
“I hadn’t even thought about that being a record-setting night,” Holt recalled. “We were just thinking about beating Syracuse.”
Holt had already helped the Wolfpack pull off one of the biggest upsets in school history two and a half weeks earlier, beating No. 2-ranked Florida State 24-7 at Carter-Finley Stadium thanks to one touchdown on a pass reception and another on a punt return.
The night against Syracuse became equally special. The Wolfpack had beaten the No. 13 Orange the year before at the Carrier Dome, thanks to head coach Mike O’Cain’s daring two-point conversion in overtime. Coach Paul Pasqualoni’s team came to Raleigh hell-bent on revenge, ostensibly behind the play of Heisman Trophy candidate Donovan McNabb.
“We really wanted to prove that game was not a fluke,” Holt said. “They were pretty pumped about getting revenge. I just remember there were a lot of good players on the field that night. It was a great atmosphere, and the game was on national television.”
McNabb was completely outplayed by underappreciated Barnette, who was responsible for three touchdowns in a 38-17 victory that sent students and fans rushing onto the field to tear down the goalposts, just as they had done following the win over the Seminoles.
“Jamie was just unbelievable that night,” remembered Holt, who caught Barnette’s lone touchdown pass and watched him run for two more. “Donovan and I were getting a lot of attention, but Jamie stole the show. [Running back] Rahshon Spikes was fantastic. It was another one of those nights where we won a big game, which we were pretty good at doing.”
Holt, Barnette’s favorite target, caught six passes for 132 yards. He passed former teammate Eddie Goines as the program’s career receiving yards leader. Holt finished his career with 191 career catches for 3,379 yards and 31 touchdown receptions.
It was the first time in 23 years that the Wolfpack had beaten two such highly ranked teams, and the last time State has beaten a top 5 and a top 15 team in the same season.
The victory gave the Wolfpack a 3-1 record on the young season, with the only blemish being a loss at Baylor. It eventually earned an invitation to the Micro PC Bowl in Miami and finished the year with a 7-5 overall record.
The numbers and obvious talent of the wide receiver from Gibsonville, North Carolina, caught the attention of every NFL team. The St. Louis Rams made him the sixth overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.
As part of “The Greatest Show on Turf,” with quarterback Kurt Warner, rookie wide receiver Holt and the Rams won Super Bowl XXXV over the Tennessee Titans.
Holt was All-Pro in 2003, was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and finished his career with a remarkable 920 catches for 13,382 yards and 75 touchdowns.
Holt has been flooded with memories of that successful senior season and his five years at NC State, with the school and the National Football Foundation preparing to honor him for his election to the College Football Hall of Fame, which was announced in January. Each of the 15 players elected this year will be honored at a home football game, and Thursday is Holt’s turn.
“I’m always appreciative and humbled by any kind of recognition of my playing career,” Holt said. “Mainly because it gives me the opportunity to give credit to those who made it possible, like Jamie, Rahshon, [linebacker] Bobby Cotton, all of my teammates. And all of the receivers that I looked up to: Eddie Goines, Haywood Jeffires, Naz Worthen, Mike Quick.
“I’m an extension of all those guys.”
Holt will be surrounded by his family on Thursday, including younger brother Terrence, a former standout safety at NC State; and sister Tasha; his wife, Carla, and three children, Brayden, Brianna and Brooklyn. Holt’s oldest is an NC State freshman.
“It will be something special to celebrate with the people I love, with the fans I love, at the school I love,” said Holt. “It’s going to be a great night.”
Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.