Holcomb joining elite company in Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
As a child and later a multi-sport athlete and state football champion at Lincoln County High School, Kelly Holcomb had many choices.
Growing up, Holcomb dreamed of becoming a baseball player.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a baseball player,” Holcomb said. “I wanted to play major league baseball, but when I started to play football, something gravitated me toward [continuing] to play football.”
That is precisely what Holcomb did, en route to becoming the 20th Blue Raider to enter the prestigious Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
“To get into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is an incredible honor,” said Athletic Director Chris Massaro. “Kelly was probably one of the easier [choices] because he’s so accomplished.”
Holcomb was in awe, nonetheless at receiving such an honor.
“I’m still shocked that something like that gets bestowed upon you,” Holcomb said. “[I] don’t know if you are ever truly deserving. Its humbling, it’s very humbling to me.”
The former Middle Tennessee star quarterback is set to be inducted next year on May 4 with the 10 other inductees at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville.
Holcomb will join fellow inductees Frank Wycheck, former teammate and long-time friend Trey Teague, Rick Byrd, Leonard Hamilton, Dr. Chris Jones, Larry Sievers, Penny Hardaway, John Ed Miller, Bob Bell and Ermal Allen.
Holcomb attended Lincoln County High School, where he played basketball, baseball, and football. In 1990, during his senior campaign at Lincoln County, he led the football team to a 15-0 season and a state championship. In that season, Lincoln County outscored their opponents 473 to 184, with an average margin of victory at nearly 20 points.
Upon graduating from Lincoln County after his successful senior season, Holcomb decided to attend MTSU and play football under Head Coach Boots Donnelly.
“[One reason] I came [was] because of the proximity,” Holcomb said. “I thought I could play, and [also] because of the coaches.”
It took Holcomb one week to earn the starting quarterback job, and the Fayettville, Tenn. native never gave it up during his four years at Middle Tennessee. Holcomb would produce a 31-16 overall record during his collegiate career, while also leading the Blue Raiders to an Ohio Valley Conference Championship and three other NCAA Playoff appearances.
At the end of his Blue Raider career, Holcomb would amass school record numbers. He currently ranks third all-time in passing yards with 7,064, third in completions with 501 and fourth in touchdown passes with 36.
Following his successful career at Middle Tennessee, Holcomb became an undrafted free agent acquisition, signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995. Shortly thereafter, Holcomb was released by Tampa Bay, eventually signing with the Barcelona Dragons in the NFL Europe league. After a short stint with Barcelona, Holcomb was signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 1996, staying on the team through the 2000 season before joining the Cleveland Browns in 2001.
During his second season as a Cleveland Brown in 2002, Holcomb would play in four games, in which he threw for a combined eight touchdowns and 790 passing yards. Cleveland would make it into the postseason, winning five out of their last seven games, to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. In that game, Holcomb had one of his best career outings, throwing for 429 yards and three touchdowns in a losing effort to Tommy Maddox and the Steelers.
In the Browns’ 2003 season, Holcomb would replace former first-round NFL draft pick Tim Couch as the starting quarterback, posting 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Holcomb went on to play for the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings, eventually announcing his retirement from professional football on July 7, 2008.
In a professional athlete’s career, developing bonds with your coaches and teammates is essential in defining his or her career. During his long and successful 13-year NFL career with multiple teams, Holcomb did just that.
“When you are in athletics, people that coach you, mold you into who you become,” Holcomb said. “My father and my parents molded me. In high school, I had [Coach] Louis Thompson, and I came [to Middle Tennessee] under Coach Donnelly and with quarterbacks coach [Alex] Robins. They mold you into something. I was fortunate to be around Bruce [Arians] and Tom Moore. People like that mold you into the person you become.”
In 2008, the 6-foot-2 quarterback who always sports a friendly smile was inducted into the Blue Raider Hall of Fame. In that same year, Holcomb returned to Middle Tennessee, becoming the color analyst on the Blue Raider Network.
“He’s loyal to his home, his family [and] his university,” Massaro added. “When I think of Kelly, that’s what I think of the most. He represents the very values of this university. [Kelly] is that blue-collar guy that you would want to be in a foxhole with.”