Legendary football coach B.W. Holt found himself in an uncommon position Monday during practice at Rocky Mount Academy. He had to give an instruction twice.
But behind his players’ initial refusal is the new demeanor Holt is instilling at Rocky Mount Academy.
The first-year coach instructed his players to leave the field as heavy rain began to fall during the first few minutes of practice.
Scattered in multiple groups and working on position-specific drills, the Eagles gave him a collective second look before running for cover. An attitude of hard work and hustle, which Holt brought with him from nearly four decades as a head coach, has taken firm hold on a team that hasn’t won back-to-back games in 23 months.
The players wanted to continue working, but instead they listened to a coach they have all grown to trust.
After winning their first game in more than a year, the Eagles will face Merry Hill Lawrence Academy at 7 tonight. The Eagles are hoping for a second straight win after last week’s victory.
“It all has to do with coach Holt,” senior fullback Adam Bayless said. “It has 100 percent to do with coach Holt.”
Players always have followed the man who has spent 37 years as a head coach.
His current players believe in him.
That’s why Bayless came back for his senior season, and last year’s leading receiver and third leading rusher, Delano Miller, switched sides of the ball to become the team’s starting middle linebacker.
“He knows what’s best for his players,” Miller said of Holt.
The belief in Holt also is why his former players have returned to the field.
Nick Huhula played for Holt for four years and is back on the field coaching linebackers, fullbacks and kickers after taking a semester off from N.C. Central.
“It only seemed right,” Huhula said. “He was like a father figure to me when I was in school.”
Terrell Hudgins, the most prolific receiver in Division-I history, spent the final two seasons of his high school career under Holt’s tutelage. He’s now trying to teach the Eagles how to haul in passes, like the 395 receptions he had at Elon University. He’s also trying to do a little learning of his own.
“I felt like if I was going to start coaching, he’s a great guy to learn from,” Hudgins said. “He (has) been around coaching for 40-plus years. I can gain a lot of knowledge from him. Not just football, but life in general.”
The football lessons have put Rocky Mount Academy (1-3) in a confident mood.
Now, its trying to build on its last game.
“We’re going to get a name for football, and football is going to get off the backburner at this school,” offensive tackle Eric Robertson said. “We are going to build a program for the younger guys and hopefully make football No. 1 at RMA.”
Building a program is what Holt does best. He made the playoffs in each of the six years he coached at Rocky Mount High and spent 18 years as the head coach at Starmount, where he lead the team to four state semifinals appearances.
Holt has had just one losing season in his career.
“We’re doing the same things I’ve done at any other place I’ve ever gone to,” Holt said.
Everywhere else, Holt has won. It seems as though it might just be a matter of time before he does the same at Rocky Mount Academy.
“He still needs that one state championship to set his career off,” Huhula said.
Huhula and Hudgins recognize the messages Holt hollers during practices. They’re familiar because they are the same principles Holt preached to them during the past decade.
Do the right things on and off the field.
Hit the weight room.
Always be physical.
“When coach Holt talks, everybody listens,” Huhula said. “When he says something, he has a purpose behind it.”
Holt recognizes that people have always followed him, including his former players turned coaches.
“I guess I do something right every once in a while,” Holt said with a laugh.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org