Rodney Holman – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Growing up in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Rodney Holman was a dual-sport athlete – a blue-chip tight end in football and an undefeated state champion wrestler. In addition to recording an impressive streak of 144 matches without a defeat in the 191-pound weight class, he also drew attention from college football powers nationwide.
However, a trip to the Crescent City sold the star on Tulane University and the Green Wave. “It was a nice change of scenery and a real good education. There were 500 or more per class at Michigan. At Tulane the classroom had more personal interaction. I could have a more one-on-one relationship with my professors. I had taken prep courses to get ready. I was prepared.”
The biggest challenge for Holman was the weather, but despite the often-oppressive southern heat, the tight end persevered, developing into a collegiate star and likely the greatest tight end in Green Wave history. He set Tulane tight-end records with his 135 catches for 1,512 yards. And his 47 snares in 1979 are the most by a Green Wave tight end in one season.
Holman was part of a potent Green Wave attack, joining quarterback Roch Hontas, placekicker Eddie Murray and receiver Robert Griffin to produce a 26-20 record and a pair of bowl appearances (1979 Liberty, 1980 Hall of Fame) during his four-year stay. It is the only time in program history that Tulane made back-to-back bowl appearances.
There were some memorable matchups during his time with the Wave: two wins over LSU (1979 and 1981); a 26-24 win over John Fourcade and Ole Miss; a meeting with John Elway and Stanford; a tight 1980 game (eventually a 13-5 loss) against Clemson, the eventual national champions; and a 20-19 victory over Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. “I had two touchdown catches against (star defensive back) Hanford Dixon. He would be the Cleveland Browns’ first-round draft pick. We battled all day.”
Despite his success on the field, the NFL was not a foregone conclusion for Holman, who graduated with a double-major in history and physical education.
“I didn’t watch much football,” he said. “I played to the best of my ability, but I never brought it home.” His coaches were shocked by his lack of focus on the NFL.
When his phone rang informing him that he was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1982 NFL draft, he was completely surprised. “I was caught off-guard. The Bengals had sent me a questionnaire during my junior year. I just filled it out and sent it back.”
A noted blocker and receiver, he tallied 365 catches for 4,771 yards and 36 touchdowns in his 14-year NFL career. His 318 receptions as the Bengals’ tight end are an organization record for the position. His 216 games played are second most by an NFL tight end. While his statistics were impressive, Holman is always quick to list his teammates when remembering his career. He easily lists many of the best players he came across in his time – names like Boomer Esiason, Ickey Woods, Anthony Munoz and Barry Sanders.
“It means a lot to be recognized by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.” He said. “Without my teammates, I wouldn’t have been there. Anytime you have an honor bestowed upon you it’s humbling. To think that somebody thought to recognize me for what I enjoyed doing.”
Story submitted by Rene Nadeau of the Greater New Orleans Sports Selection Committee.