Like finalists who have come before him, former Rams wide receiver Torry Holt hoped to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame the first time he was on the ballot.
For Holt, that was last year, and it didn't work out the way he hoped. However, he's a finalist for the second-straight year this year and believes he's "getting closer" to that coveted gold jacket.
"If this year (it) happens, great. If it doesn't, I'll try again next year if I'm voted in, voted as a finalist." Holt told theRams.com during a video interview Thursday, two days before the members of the Class of 2021 will be unveiled during the annual NFL Honors awards show (Saturday, 6 p.m. PT, CBS). "I feel like I'm getting closer and closer each year, so we'll see how it shakes out. It's hard, man. I hate to keep saying this, but if you're not a first-ballot guy, it's a challenge. But I lean on my patience and I lean on my faith to get through it."
Holt has every reason to be confident in his candidacy, and at a minimum, place among this year's 15 modern era finalists.
From 2000 to 2009, he tallied 868 receptions for 12,594 yards, both still NFL records for receptions and receiving yards in a single decade, while being named to seven Pro Bowls. That span also included six consecutive seasons (2000-05) of at least 1,300 receiving yards – a record he was the sole owner of until the Falcons' Julio Jones matched it in 2019. Consequently, Holt was named to the NFL's All-Decade team of the 2000s.
That's only a handful of examples. The individual accomplishment he's most proud of, though, was his 1999 rookie season and what he helped the Rams achieve that year after being selected sixth overall in the NFL draft. He punctuated that first year with five catches for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the regular season finale against the Eagles to finish with 52 for 788 and six overall respectively and win the Rams' rookie of the year award. In the Super Bowl, he posted seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
"Coming in my rookie year, being sixth overall, and helping the Rams win a division title, and then go on to win the NFC Championship and Super Bowl," Holt said. "All in my rookie year, where they say most rookies can't perform or live up to that in their first year. I think I was able to do away with that myth. I think I came in and played well in my rookie year, and more importantly in the big moments, in the playoffs, is really where you saw my game grow."
Just as validating as those and other accomplishments is the feedback he receives from his peers.
"Hearing from other guys that I played against, other guys that are in the hall, other guys that are going to the hall, they've said to me that they think that I'm a Hall-of-Famer," Holt said. "And that feels good, but it'll feel even better once you hear your name being called or once you hear that knock."
Holt has multiple former teammates who have also had to wait their turn for that iconic post-career moment. Quarterback Kurt Warner got in when he was a third-time finalist (2017), offensive tackle Orlando Pace a second-time finalist (2016). Cornerback/safety Aeneas Williams got in when he was in his third year as a finalist. Just recently, fellow wide receiver Isaac Bruce was elected to the Class of 2020 in his fourth time as a finalist and sixth year of eligibility.
Much like his faith and patience, Holt has also been able to lean on them for support leading into this weekend.
"They've all been helpful, they've all been encouraging (during this process)," Holt said. "Kurt has said numerous times why he feels like I should be in the hall. If you look at him and, what he says on social media, on Twitter, he's very active there, very transparent (and) very candid there about how he feels about me as a Hall-of-Famer. Aeneas has done the same thing, Orlando has been encouraging, (former Rams running back) Marshall (Faulk) as well. Isaac, his team, his group this year was very helpful in helping us navigate through this, giving us tips and things he learned through the process. Very, very helpful to me and my team in terms of things we needed to look for and how we needed to prepare as this thing goes. Very thankful to those guys and their help."
Those same teammates have been praised by Holt for setting an example for him when he first entered the NFL on how to be a pro. He said joining them – and effectively completing The Greatest Show on Turf set in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the fifth and final original member inducted – would be "very special."
"I saw those guys come in and out of the building every single day. I knew what their intent was, I knew how passionate they were for the game, I knew the respect they have for the game of football, and I knew how important winning and excellence was to them. And it rubbed off on me," Holt said. "So I'm kind of like, you know, I'll be the closer to that chapter, The Greatest Show on Turf, in regards to the highest compliment you can get, and that's being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. ... History man, I just think history and I see history, and it's something no one, nobody, anybody can take away from us."