Saturday, October 18, 2008

Holt's prediction comes true

By Nick Phillips
RMHS correspondent

(Editor's note: Check out Nick's new blog at )

Sitting here today, a freshman in college and away from home for the first extended period of time, I look around and see many reminders of home and Rocky Mount High School.

A baseball hat, a Gryphons mini-football and basketball (thanks to cheerleading coach Lou Buck) and walls adorned with newspaper clippings of the Gryphons baseball team’s state championship run.

As one of the team’s biggest fans, Wes Bradshaw, says, we were the Boys of Spring, capping off a season like no other, and for us five seniors, going out on top to finish our high school careers.

But this story is not as much about the baseball team winning or the great stories that everyone has from those few weeks. It’s about Rocky Mount head football coach B.W Holt. As my eyes wander to the framed picture of the exuberant dog pile in Five County Stadium’s infield, I hear Coach Holt’s voice saying ‘I told you so.’

You see, this story goes way back. Back beyond the beginnings of this past year’s graduating class’ high school endeavors. This story has its roots in the Edwards Middle School gym.

The year was 2004, and Rocky Mount football had just experienced its first year under Coach Holt. I remember that spring there was a meeting for anyone who had thoughts about playing any sport at Rocky Mount. I vaguely remember Coach Donald Thomas talking about reminders about physicals and the sort, but remembered this man standing off to the side.

As a na├»ve middle school student, I didn’t attend any of the Gryphons football games the previous fall in Coach Holt’s first campaign. But it soon became apparent what Coach Holt’s visions were for athletics at Rocky Mount High School.

Only a few words into his talk, mainly introducing himself and a word or two about football tryouts, when he came out and said, “By the time your class graduates, you will have won a state championship in some sport, I don’t know which one, but we will have won one somewhere.”

I’m pretty sure we all thought Coach Holt’s words were crazy, words trying to get us excited about high school and high school athletics. Who was this man to say what would happen in the future?

We were quickly turned into believers as we saw Holt’s football teams quickly began to turn into state contenders, and now have become powerhouses.

In 2007, the Gryphons’ Chalonda Silver brought home an individual championship in indoor track. But it was not the fruits of our class’ efforts.

As the weeks wound down towards graduation, it appeared Coach Holt’s words would not be fulfilled. Then a magical run began, both literally and figuratively.

First, Jacobi Jenkins outran the competition in the Eastern Finals to earn a spot in the state championships. There, he captured the championship in the 110 meter hurdles and brought the Class of 2008 its first champion.

But again, the championship was an individual one.

At the same time the Gryphons’ baseball team was beginning its run through the playoffs. I remember Bradshaw announcing Jacobi’s results and the applause he received. Inside, I believed that he helped push the baseball team that much harder, because we wanted to have that same feeling.

After a run through the playoffs, and a hard-fought Championship Series, the Gryphons baseball team was finally able to celebrate. Now there was no question – Holt’s promise was complete, both individually and as a team.

He was in the stands in Zebulon, along with many of Rocky Mount’s other athletes.

Seeing the celebration, will it now push those athletes in the other sports to want it that much more?

What will Coach Holt’s next speech be, now that his Gryphons are serious contenders?

As I look at the celebratory pictures again, and the ring that represents all of the hard work that was put into it, I remember taking time out of that late afternoon in May from celebrating to think back to those words so many years ago.

Call me crazy, or random, or whatever, but along with the memories and feelings from those magical weeks, I will forever remember Coach Holt’s words.

Thanks Coach, for instilling the dream and pushing us along the way, even if you didn’t always realize it.