Commentary

Fowler: ACC football stars Holt, Bly together again

sfowler@charlotteobserver.comNovember 30, 2012 

  • ACC Football Championship WHAT: Florida State (10-2) vs. Georgia Tech (6-6) WHEN: Saturday, 8 p.m. WHERE: Bank of America Stadium TV: ESPN TICKETS: Available for Saturday’s game and for Friday’s ACC Night of Legends at 7 p.m. at the Charlotte Convention Center. Go to accfootballcharlotte.com for more information or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.

They were fierce rivals who didn’t much like each other. Then teammates. Then friends. Then Super Bowl champions as NFL rookies on the same team. Then Pro Bowlers.

And now, Torry Holt and Dre’ Bly will be honored Friday night in Charlotte as ACC Legends.

Holt was a dazzling wide receiver for N.C. State and the ACC Player of the Year in 1998. Bly was a sticky-fingered cornerback for North Carolina who had 20 career interceptions for the Tar Heels, including 11 as a redshirt freshman.

They once faced off in a memorable game at Bank of America Stadium, the site of Saturday night’s ACC Championship game between Florida State and Georgia Tech. They still laughingly debate who got the better of whom in that 1998 matchup. UNC beat the Wolfpack 37-34 in overtime and Bly had an interception on a pass intended for Holt. But Holt caught 180 yards worth of passes and also scored on a 65-yard punt return.

“His statistics were very inflated because he got a lot of his yards on this one bubble screen pass,” said Bly, who lives in Charlotte with his wife and five children.

“He made a few plays that day, but I’d like to think I made a few more,” said Holt, who lives in Raleigh with his wife and three children.

Their wives are good friends, and the families are close enough that they occasionally vacation together. Their friendship has come a long way since the late 1990s.

“I didn’t really know him then,” Bly said, “but I didn’t like him because he was over there in Raleigh. I felt I was the biggest, baddest guy around no matter who I lined up against. I didn’t like hearing his name all the time.”

They became friends in the summer of 1999, shortly after the St. Louis Rams drafted them on the same night. Holt was the sixth overall pick. Bly was No. 41. They roomed together in training camp, battled each other every day on the practice fields and realized how much they had in common.

“We didn’t know a lot of people in St. Louis,” Holt said, “so we started to hang out all the time.”

The Rams won the Super Bowl over Tennessee when the two were rookies.

“I remember when the clock struck zero, Dre’ was maybe the first guy I ended up running into and hugging,” Holt said. “We were so caught up in the moment.”

They both went on to excellent NFL careers that lasted just over a decade. Holt stayed in St. Louis for all but one season, an integral part of the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf.” He had six consecutive seasons with 1,300 or more receiving yards. Bly played for four teams and made the Pro Bowl in Detroit while compiling 43 career interceptions.

The two are among the headliners in the ACC Football Legends class this year that also includes Miami defensive end Ted Hendricks, Duke guard Mike McGee, Virginia running back Frank Quayle, Boston College offensive guard Bob Hyland, Clemson tight end Bennie Cunningham, Florida State linebacker Sam Cowart, Georgia Tech safety Ken Swilling, Maryland running back Chet “The Jet” Hanulak, Virginia Tech defensive back Pierson Prioleau and Wake Forest linebacker Ed Stetz.

Holt and his brother Terrence – a former football standout at N.C. State and in the NFL as well – are in the construction business in Raleigh. Bly enjoys youth coaching. He coaches a travel baseball team and a youth football team in Charlotte and makes occasional appearances on radio station WFNZ-610 AM.

“Four of my five kids are boys, so I stay pretty active,” Bly said.

Both men also have established charitable foundations that are geared toward helping children.

Holt and Bly will hang out this weekend like they do several times each year, talking football and debating topics like the future of their conference.

“I kind of worry about the ACC,” Holt said. “I’m just not all the way sold and not sure what direction the conference is headed. I guess maybe they have a plan. But as a former player and now as a fan, I do worry.”

They won’t be worrying much this weekend, though. It’s a time for celebrating.

Scott Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @Scott_Fowler

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