Rarely do fans find a player that from the very moment you witness their athletic prowess, they leave an indelible mark and connection to your heart and passion for sports.
This has happened only three times in my life, with players from very different sports and very different teams.
The first is the greatest man I have ever seen play the point guard position in the NBA, John Stockton. I was born a Jazz fan and watching games with my grandpa was as natural a part of my childhood as learning to shoot a jumpshot in my driveway.
But this connection is unquestionably the strongest to a man who called it a career Wednesday afternoon as a Ram, Torry Holt.
I can’t pinpoint why Holt was my favorite from the Greatest Show on Turf era, transcending the countless others on that team from Bruce to Warner to Faulk who were equally as talented and popular.
Maybe it was because his coming to the Rams as the sixth pick in the 1999 draft coincided with my decision to become a football fan, allowing my love of the sport to grow with a player who was destined for greatness from the moment he stepped on the Edward Jones Dome turf.
Maybe it was because he was the model of consistency on the field year in and year out, recording eight consecutive seasons of at least 81 receptions and 1,188 yards, including two 1,600 yard seasons and three with 10 or more touchdowns.
Maybe it was because he always shined in games that mattered most, catching a touchdown and seven receptions for 109 yards in the Rams' Super Bowl win against the Titans and a meaningless game on November 23, 2003 to most everyone except for me against the lowly Arizona Cardinals.
That was the first NFL game I had ever seen in person, where he caught nine passes for 145 yards while I sat in the Cardinals stands proudly wearing my Holt jersey.
It could be any combination of those factors but I guess his place as my favorite athlete of all-time is best summed up by that very same jersey my mom bought me in fifth grade.
I wore it so often through the prime of his career that eventually the numbers began to fade, the printed name fell off the back and the trademark Ram emblem began to peel off the sleeves.
Despite his game fading over time just as my jersey faded, it still hangs in my closet as a reminder of all the great memories “Big Game” provided for every Rams fan over the near decade he spent in St. Louis.
That jersey is hung in my closet and yesterday Torry decided to hang it up too, once and for all, and I couldn’t be happier to see him come home and do it in the blue and gold.
Video tribute to Torry Holt by Biggame1190Rams.