For Ravontae Holt, playing Saturday was ‘surreal’ experience
LARAMIE -- The thought of quitting never crossed his mind.
That doesn't mean Ravontae Holt didn't look to the sky from time to time and ask, "why does this keep happening to me?"
Wyoming's 6-foot-4, 278-pound defensive tackle suffered his third consecutive torn ACL in a Week 2 victory over Hawaii last October. Before that, his right knee, the same one that gave out on him during his freshman season, once again didn't hold up during fall camp in 2019.
Before Saturday's season opener against Montana State, Holt said he took a moment to himself.
He thought about all he has been through during his college career -- the grueling rehab sessions, fleeting moments of doubt and anxiously watching games in street clothes from the sideline.
"The feeling was amazing," he said of trotting onto the field for his first snap against the Bobcats. "I was just thinking, 'wow, it just feels surreal to be back out there again.'"
Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl limited Holt throughout camp and paid close attention to every repetition. When the Cowboys' junior blew out of his three technique for the first time, confidence began to grow.
"After making a hit, I was like, 'OK, I'm back,'" Holt said. "'I can do this at a high level.'"
Holt registered just two tackles against MSU, but played a major role in clogging up the middle of the defense and keeping blockers off linebacker Chad Muma, who tallied a team-high 12 tackles.
"It's great. It's exciting to see after everything that he's been through, and after all the times that he's had to battle back and bounce back, he's done it," said Muma, who Monday was named the Mountain West's Defensive Player of the Week. "He kind of proved this past Saturday by just how well and how fast he was playing. So, it's great to see that."
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When Holt has been on the field, he's been a force in the trenches, recording 46 tackles and a sack in just 18 career games.
Keegan Cryder, Wyoming's former All-American center, faces Holt every day in practice. Despite their battles on the line of scrimmage, Cryder said this team is better with Holt on the field.
"He's definitely had a hard road here," he said. "He's a phenomenal player and I'm just really thankful that he got to have a good, full game, stay healthy and had fun. He definitely makes a difference playing up front there for us. So, I'm really happy for him."
What drives Holt to keep going after all the setbacks he's endured in Laramie?
That answer is a simple one: He's faced more important adversity than this in his life.
The Sacramento, Calif., product said he's one of the only people in his family to attend college. That's just part of what makes him push and attack each day, he said.
"I've got a lot of people looking up to me," he said. "I strive to be a role model."
Holt admits he was also inspired watching the similar struggles of Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers. The fellow California native has also suffered three straight season-ending leg injuries.
"It's the best feeling ever, seeing him grinding every day with you," Holt said. "It gives me confidence to keep going."
Two days after his first game in nearly a year, Holt said his left knee feels great. That, he added, just breeds more confidence. He still gets in extra rehab sessions with the trainers, but Holt said he can't think about his injury history if he hopes to play to his potential.
Holt said he has plenty to correct after watching the game film. In his mind, he wants to make every play.
The best feeling though is simply being a normal football player again.
“He has overcome a lot of adversity," Bohl said. "It’s great to have him in the trenches.
"... We applaud his resiliency and can-do attitude."