Austin Peay's smallish Holt eyes big NFL chance

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 11:00pm

Look. Catch. Run.

That’s what Terrence Holt has been doing on the football field since he first learned the rules of the game. Always one of the smaller guys on the team, he practiced at an early age how to dodge the big guys and outmaneuver the fast ones.

Now, as he prepares to take the field Saturday for his last game at Austin Peay, he’s not only focusing on winning the game but ending his college career as strongly as he started it, as one of the state's top performers in a small college program.

“I just play every game to broadcast my talent and show scouts that I am good enough to play in the NFL,” Holt said. “And when people say I’m too small, I put it in the back of my head and use it as motivation.”

Growing up in Nashville, Holt spent his childhood on the football field. His mother was a cheerleading coach and brought him to all the games. By the time he got to high school at Maplewood, Holt was ready to prove he was a tough player, despite his stature.

“He’s a gutsy kid who never quits, never gives up, and he’s an amazing talent,” former Maplewood coach Ralph Thompson said. “He’s going to give you everything he has every play, no matter how tired he is. He never wants to come off the field, and he always wants to make the team better.”

Thompson said Holt’s breakout game was in his junior year, when the team traveled to Tullahoma without their top receiver. Holt embraced the challenge, running 385 yards and scoring four touchdowns.

“He did everything you can think of and literally carried the team on his back,” Thompson said. “And that signature game
really put him on the map.”

The following year, Holt ran for 365 yards in just three quarters against Tullahoma, before Thompson pulled him to avoid injury.

Still, college coaches weren’t yet willing to take a chance on Holt. Thompson said he sent out 44 films on Holt to different schools across the nation, but only one school was willing: Austin Peay.

The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Holt took that chance and ran with it, returning his first kickoff as a Governor for a touchdown. The last time he touched the ball that game, he also scored a touchdown.

It didn’t take long for head coach Rick Christophel to see Holt’s potential as a running back, too.

“He has great field vision, quickness and speed, but he also sees the whole field,” Christophel said. “I think he sees two to three cuts at a time, and it’s that ability to see the whole field that makes good running backs.”

While his freshman year was filled with highlights, Holt believes his pivotal college campaign came in 2009, when he was named All American all-purpose back after leading the OVC in touchdowns (15, including 13 rushing) and ran for 793 yards.

He entered this season as the career record holder for kickoff return yards with 3,583, and while the season has not turned out to be the team’s best, Holt has continued to mature.

Christophel said Holt will leave a big hole to fill both as a running back and returner next year, but he has been a good role model for the young guys on the team.

Holt will spend the off-season in the weight room, training in hopes of getting an invitation to the NFL Combine. With role models like Chris Johnson, Devin Hester and Deion Sanders, Holt knows what is takes to be a little guy in the NFL. Now he just needs to find a coach who will give him that chance the way Austin Peay did.

“There’s one thing I know,” Christophel said. “He’ll do everything he can to be successful, and if he gets that opportunity I think he will be successful.”