Former Arizona cornerback now spending time indoors

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Richard Holt is a weekend warrior.

Every weekend during the summer, he straps on his pads and ventures out into the middle of a 50-yard indoor war.

It is not your typical battleground, however. Where there were once sidelines, four-foot high foam walls now stand. The wide uprights have been drastically contracted and the 11 soldiers a side have been reduced to eight.

This is not any conventional war. This is Arenaball.

For Holt, a former Arizona cornerback who graduated in 1992 and is now a defensive back with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League, arena football has been anything but hell. It has given him a taste of playing offense and prolonging his dream of one day playing in the NFL.

"I played both ways (wide receiver and defensive back) at the beginning of the season, and I had fun," said Holt, who was cut by the New York Jets out of college. "I guess after you catch a touchdown pass you kind of like scoring. It's exciting. You get hit, which has a different twist to it, then you end up in the end zone and the crowd is going wild."

Despite his success this year, which includes a Rattlers' record 15 total tackles against Las Vegas two weeks ago, Holt is working toward catching on with an NFL team.

Right now, he's preparing for tomorrow's Arena Bowl VIII which pits the Rattlers (10-4) against the Orlando Predators (14-0).

"I'm playing now to try and win a championship, then I'll go from there," Holt said. "I've been talking to agents, trying to see which one is best for me to see if I can get a shot at the NFL next season."

Holt finished his career at the UA with 165 tackles in three years after transferring from El Camino (Calif.) Junior College. After the Jets released him, Holt spent a year working with children in Phoenix. Realizing he had no current film to show pro scouts, Holt called the Rattlers.

For someone used to conventional football, the offensive-minded AFL was a whole new ballgame. Wide receivers are allowed a running start towards the line of scrimmage, so corners have to give them a deep cushion, which makes them vulnerable to short and middle distance passes.

"It's a lot different, and more difficult, because you're in man-to-man, and the field is small," Holt said. "It's a quicker game. You have to really buckle down and play hard every week, otherwise teams (can score) 50 or 60 points against you.

"I think it's a lot more exciting, especially from the fans' point of view, because there's always something happening. There's constant action because there's no place for anyone to run except at the defense."

Speaking of defense, Holt spoke with pride about the current UA team.

"I'm happy for them. They deserve it, the defense is playing well," he said. "They've got a decent offense now that's going to play well. Hopefully, they can put it together this year and win the games they're supposed to."

He also said that his UA teams began the defensive tradition that has snowballed the last two years.

"We kind of started Desert Swarm, it wasn't something that just happened over one year," he said. "Our defense has always been playing well, and it's something that has grown and is coming up real big for them."

Though they are spread out over the country, Holt still keeps in touch with his former teammates.

"Anytime I get a chance, I get together with them," Holt said. "I ran into Bobby Roland (who patrolled the secondary with Holt at Arizona) two weeks ago against Charlotte (a Rattlers' quarterfinal victory)."

For a guy who has grown up playing defense, Holt has definitely taken a liking to offense; he has two touchdown receptions this season.

"Now I just play defensive back, but I kind of miss scoring," he said. "But I'm playing for the team, wherever I'm needed.

"I keep preparing for offense just in case someone gets hurt."

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