Torry Holt was a rookie wide receiver in St. Louis in 1999 when Kurt Warner was thrust in as the Rams’ starting quarterback.
Free-agent signee Trent Green suffered a torn ACL, MCL and PCL when he was sacked by Chargers safety Rodney Harrison. Green had completed 22 of 25 passes in his first three preseason games, so Holt and his teammates thought all their offseason work was shredded as badly as Green’s left knee.
“I was ticked off,” Holt said in a phone interview Thursday morning. “We felt like we were going to do something good when Trent was in there. We did. We knew we were good, we knew we were going to do something. But we didn’t what it was going to be, how big it was going to be. But we knew something was going to happen. To see Trent go down was very frustrating.”
Warner, a Cedar Rapids Regis and Northern Iowa graduate, replaced Green as the starter. Warner’s story is told tonight by the NFL Network in the documentary “Kurt Warner: A Football Life.”
Holt is a seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who retired in 2010 and now works as an NFL Network analyst. Holt said his teammates touted Warner’s accuracy before he arrived in training camp that summer. Holt was a first-round pick out of North Carolina State.
When Warner first took over, Holt said initially he was skeptical about Warner’s accuracy with the first team.
“OK, how’s he really going to do? At the same time, I’m a rookie,” Holt said. “How am I really going to do? So there may be some uncertainty there, some anxiety, but that’s why you play the game.
“All the sudden Kurt steps in, we’d be out there practicing, and the ball wouldn’t touch the ground with this guy. He was just throwing it on the money. We’d have some moments there, but for most part we’re not skipping a beat. It was like Trent was still there in the huddle.
“I think once he experienced it, he was like, ‘You know what, let’s make it happen.’ Now we’re enjoy nice documentary on Kurt and what he did in life and in the game of football.”
Warner finished that 1999 season with 4,353 passing yards and 41 touchdowns to lead the Rams to their first Super Bowl title. Warner was named both league and Super Bowl MVP that year.
That Rams offense, which earned the nickname “Greatest Show on Turf,” has the potential for several Hall of Fame players. Running back Marshall Faulk was inducted in August. Warner appears a likely candidate after throwing for 32,344 yards, 208 touchdowns and leading three teams to the Super Bowl. Tackle Orlando Pace was one of his generation’s best offensive linemen.
Holt is the only receiver in league history to amass 1,300 yards receiving and 90-plus catches in six consecutive years. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce retired after catching 1,024 passes for 15,208 yards and 91 touchdowns. Both Holt (1oth) and Bruce (third) rank in the top 10 historically in receiving yards and the top 13 in receptions (Bruce 8th, Holt 13th). From 2000-2009, Holt caught more passes (868) for more yards (12,594) in a single decade than any other player in NFL history.
“We were just trying to get some respect, so to grow into the Greatest Show on Turf, I would say that was not our intention,” Holt said. “We were around a group of guys that love playing the game, that practiced the game right way, that cared about the game, respected the game and then we grew into the Greatest Show on Turf.
“But I had no idea when I first got to St. Louis that was going to happen with our team and our city. I did say I saw all the talent, and went, ‘Wow how did the team play so poorly the year before?’”
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