Torry Holt announces retirement from NFL

BY foxsports • April 4, 2012



ST. LOUIS — Torry Holt walked through a doorway to
applause, his career reaching an appropriate end. The former St. Louis Rams
wide receiver chose to mark retirement where his journey began, and the
reception began early.



On Wednesday, a conference room filled with friends, family and former
teammates greeted him at Rams Park to begin an announcement that capped his
accomplished career. He signed a one-day contract with the team that selected
him sixth overall in the 1999 NFL Draft. He stood before supporters eager to
return to the place where he became part of the "Greatest Show on
Turf" offense that produced a Super Bowl title in the 1999 season. He
spoke about growing in St. Louis and cherishing his role within a franchise
that taught him the value of commitment and passion.



"I'm excited, elated, to be standing here before you guys retiring as a
member of the St. Louis Rams," Holt said.



With those words, one of the most prolific wide receivers in Rams history had
returned home. His arrival was delayed: Holt had not played in a regular-season
game since appearing in 15 contests for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009.
Before then, he had starred for 10 seasons in St. Louis, where he caught 869
passes for 12,660 yards and appeared in seven Pro Bowls.



Early in the ceremony Wednesday, Holt leaned over a rail near the front of the
room when a highlight video showcasing his time with the Rams played. He stared
at two flatscreen televisions and scratched his chin. He watched a younger
version of himself sprint past defenders.



The moment marked time, but it also revealed the fulfillment of a childhood
dream.



Growing up, it was rare for the boy from Gibsonville, NC, to be seen without a
football or basketball. His early interest led to him becoming a standout
prospect from Eastern Guilford (NC) High School, a consensus All-American as a
senior at North Carolina State and one of the most versatile talents of his era
as a professional. His path surprised even those closest to him.



"Not really," Odell Shoffner, Holt's father, said when asked if he
envisioned his son reaching this point. "But I'm glad it happened, because
all the time I kept fussing to everybody that he had a ball in his hand. ... I'm
elated that he's able to go out like this. We're always going to have the Rams
in our hearts."



Holt never lost love for the organization that gave him his first chance. It
began on draft day in 1999, when then-St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil called Holt
and said, "Do you want to be a Ram?" The year before, St. Louis had
finished 4-12 — its ninth consecutive season without making the playoffs. The
Rams sought a promising downfield threat and made Holt the first wide receiver
taken.



Holt thought to himself, "Oh, shoot," in the moments after Vermeil's
call. The Rams' checkered history worried him. They had won more than six games
only once since 1989. Shortly after his arrival in the Gateway City, though,
his doubts disappeared.



"When I got here, and I saw the talent that was here, and I saw the men
that were here, the professionals that were here, I knew I was somewhere
special," Holt said. "I was able to grow here in St. Louis as a young
man."



He was able to grow on the field as well. At age 23, he started 15
regular-season games as a rookie and caught 52 passes for 788 yards and six
touchdowns. The next year, he began a streak of eight consecutive seasons with
at least 1,100 yards receiving. His best campaign came in 2003, when he had 117
catches for 1,696 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished with 13,382 yards
receiving and 74 touchdowns for his career.



Holt spoke Wednesday behind a podium with a Rams lapel pin fastened to the
right collar of his blazer. Memories from his time on the field rushed back to
him. He relived the Super Bowl XXXIV victory over the Tennessee Titans, the
three catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over the Atlanta
Falcons in 2000, and the three triumphs over the Seattle Seahawks in 2004. He
molded his professional identity in St. Louis and made the city his home.



"Torry is like a little brother to me," said former Rams defensive
tackle Ray Agnew, one of Holt's teammates. "It's awesome. He deserves
everything he's gotten. ... The closeness, the camaraderie we had as a team — no
one was selfish. Everybody was unselfish. ... It was a close-knit group that we
had. We were one. We were a team. That's what I remember the most."



Holt keeps those memories close. As for himself, he wants to be remembered as a
player who respected his teammates and coaches and challenged his peers. He
pointed his right hand as he said, "I just wanted to be the best every
day." Later, he waved both arms as he reminded former teammates that their
Super Bowl title is "one thing that they can never take away from
us."



Holt's time in St. Louis will never be taken from him. After the ceremony, he
chatted with audience members. He swapped stories. He posed for pictures and
smiled.



Eventually, Holt prepared to walk out the same doorway he arrived. He marked
his retirement within the same walls where his career began. The destination
felt right.



"It's good," he said before leaving, "to be back."


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