Holt new Carson-Newman signee

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   A teenager's dreams will soon turn into Saturday afternoon reality for Forrest Holt. The star linebacker of the Happy Valley Warriors recently signed to play college football at Carson-Newman in Jefferson City.
   "I'm really excited," stated Holt. "That's what I've wanted to do -- play football for Carson-Newman. We talked to the coaches and talked about how they have been to nine National Championships in the past 15 years."
   Holt will join another Carter County product in the Eagle football fold. Stephen Trivette, a graduate of Elizabethton High, recently completed a successful 2001 season for Carson-Newman as a wide receiver.
   When you look at reasons Forrest was able to achieve his goal of playing for legendary C-N coach Ken Sparks, consider he literally has been surrounded by success. Father Joe owns and operates Holt Signworks, whose banners for companies have been seen by everyone attending a HV home football game.
   His mother, Tina, also works with the family business as well as being a successful real estate agent in Johnson City. She currently is employed by the TCI Group, a commercial real estate firm.
   If his parents' inspiration weren't enough, older sister Kelly lives in Tampa, Fla., where she has her own interior decorator business.
   "My mom and dad would be proud of me no matter what," said Forrest. "This is a great opportunity for me to do well and they're excited. My dad was there when coach Ken Sparks told the newcomers how he was going to take us under his wing. His speech almost brought tears to our eyes. He told us how he makes players into young men."
   Forrest has done more than just observe his family's principles of hard work, he has taken action. This spring he has dedicated time to the weight room in efforts to get bigger and faster for the upcoming season.
   "I do track and get to work out everyday at high school," said Holt. "I throw the discus and shot put and I've talked to a lot of the coaches about getting prepared to play college football. Coach (Stan) Ogg, coach (Don) Verran (HV's track coach) and coach Judy over at Science Hill have all helped me out."
   Ogg, who served as Forrest's high school football coach, is impressed by his pupil's work ethic.
   "He was a three-year starter, playing since his sophomore year at inside linebacker," said Ogg. "He got better every year. He was a good, vocal leader and he kept in the weight room and got stronger. He was one of the strongest hitters we've ever had at Happy Valley and he's continuing to get stronger."
   Leading the linebacking corps atop Warrior Hill, Forrest recorded 114 tackles (five for losses) his senior season. Over the course of his prep career, he registered 328 tackles with 12 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage.
   "Our defense sometimes won the games for us," said Holt, who wore jersey No. 50 for the Maroon and White. "All our linebackers were experienced and we felt we should play harder than anyone on the team. We did pretty good this season."
   What sold Carson-Newman on Forrest went well beyond their success on the football field.
   "The team seemed like a family," said Holt. "I liked the area and liked the people. You wouldn't believe the difference in the personality of the coaches there and a rival school I visited. They're really big on God and they make you feel at home.
   "I'm planning on being a teacher and majoring in education. The teacher to student ratio is excellent and I've heard that the teachers will actually give you their home phone numbers if you need them. They have a good teaching staff, a good tutoring staff and I won't get sidetracked as much there as I would at a bigger school."
   Ogg also handed out high praise for Carson-Newman. "I'm happy for him," said Ogg. "It's a first-class university. Coach Turner, who coached in this area, recruited him. Head coach Sparks is an outstanding person in addition to being an outstanding coach.
   "They've won five championships and it seems every year they are contending for a championship. The level of play is tremendous. He visited there and loved it and decided that's what he wanted to do."
   Both Coach Ogg and Forrest stress that some changes will be required to play for the Eagle program.
   "We try to play as good competition as we can," said Ogg. "In three years, he has faced some good ball players. The kids at Alcoa and the Elizabethton team his sophomore season had some major college players.
   "He's seen good competition, but he will see even better competition. It's a big step going from high school to college, but he likes to face challenges. It takes adjustments and a lot of hard work. I think he's up to the challenge and will be able to succeed."
   Added Forrest: "I think the main difference will be the speed of the game. Everyone there is bigger and faster than in high school. I have to step up my game, but the harder I work, I feel the easier it will come to me."