By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Former Enid Plainsmen football standout and ex-NFL player John Holt died Wednesday in Tampa, Fla., after battling illness. He was 53.
Holt, after graduating from Enid High School in 1977, went on to become a four-year letter winner at West Texas State (now West Texas A&M) and was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft in 1981 by Tampa Bay. He played eight years in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Indianapolis.
“He was probably the best, pure football athlete I ever played with,” recalled former Plainsmen teammate Todd Humphrey. “He could have played any position in any sport he wanted.”
Holt also played baseball and basketball for Enid.
Humphrey was a defensive back, and played in the secondary with Holt, who also played halfback at Enid.
“He was just such a natural,” Humphrey said. “He was just a fantastic guy who had no enemies. Everybody liked him.”
Holt also was one of only a few black players on the Enid team at the time.
“There were no color barriers with him,” Humphrey said. “It didn’t matter. We went fishing together ... it’s a damned shame (his passing).”
Holt — whose older brother Dale was quarterback of the state championship Plainsmen teams of 1964, 1965 and 1966 and went on to play for Kansas — earned all-state honors in his senior year at Enid. During his junior and senior seasons, he rushed for a combined 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Holt also is remembered fondly by former Plainsmen head football coach and athletic director Robert Greenhaw, who coached Holt as a sophomore and junior.
“He had a lot of talent,” Greenhaw said. “He could play just about any place you put him. I knew he could play defense. He had a knack for the ball. If you had the ball, he would find you. He wasn’t a big man, but he was tall and lanky and had lots of speed.
“The Holt family are all just special people. All of the Holt kids could play,” Greenhaw said. “It was a real privilege to have the opportunity to coach somebody like him and to work with a young man like that. He wasn’t boastful, just a very good person. It was a joy to be around him. I am sure saddened to hear about him.”
Darrell Herndon, who currently is the head tennis coach at Enid, remembers Holt when he coached him on the junior varsity and later on the varsity.
“Back then the JV team was called the Highlanders,” Herndon said. “Coach Floyd Winfield and I won almost every game that John was involved in. We thought as coaches we were great, but it was no doubt due to John’s ability. I remember him as a great leader on the football team and in school.”
During his collegiate career at West Texas State, Holt was a four-year letter winner who distinguished himself on special teams. He still holds the team record for punt returns in a single season with 27 in 1978 and holds the school’s all-time mark with 66 punts over his four-year career.
While at West Texas State, Holt’s teams claimed the Missouri Valley Conference crown twice. In his senior year, 1980, the Buffs defeated Oklahoma State 20-19.
Coming out of college, Holt was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft by Tampa Bay, where he played for five seasons before finishing his career in 1988 after a three-year stint with the Indianapolis Colts. Over the course of his NFL career, Holt appeared in 109 games, both as a punt return specialist and cornerback.
He averaged 11.1 yards per punt return in his rookie season at Tampa Bay and 24.9 yards on kick returns. He returned a career-high 16 punts in 1982. He had seven interceptions over the course of his eight-year career, with his best season coming in 1983 when had three interceptions. He ranked seventh in the NFL in 1986 with four fumble recoveries while with the Indianapolis Colts and had an 80-yard interception return that season that was the second-longest in the NFL that year.
Holt finished his NFL career following the 1988 season with the Colts.
Holt is survived by his wife Janet and his son, Kyle Greenhoward. His brother Dale and other family members still reside in Enid.
There will be a memorial service for family and friends at 11 a.m. Monday at Westside Church of God In Christ in Enid.�