A popular Maplewood assistant football coach who died from sickle cell anemia at the age of 35 is being remembered not only for his story of pain and early death but also for his story that inspires many.
If you list Brian Holt's disappointments in life, you might wonder how in the world he kept his head up. But the man did more than keep his head up. As his family said Wednesday, he turned a curse into a blessing.
"We were on a trip to Disney World and didn't know what was wrong with him. He was in pain all the time, just crying and saying, 'Hold me. Hold me, my legs hurt,'" said cousin Dawn Bell Fears.
Shortly after that trip, Holt's family discovered he had sickle cell anemia. But they also soon discovered Holt was done crying for help.
"He would let his pain be a motivator to continue to go," said aunt Becky Videau.
A fantastic football player at Whites Creek High School, Holt was offered a full scholarship at Florida State. But the family said the school changed its mind when it realized how sick he was.
Instead, Holt graduated from Tennessee State, played semi-pro ball and even won a tryout with the Atlanta Falcons. But that dream was soon shattered, too, when he failed a physical for having a blood clot in his neck.
"He could have quit, but he was no quitter, ever - not until he took his last breath," Videau said.
Holt later became an assistant coach at Maplewood High School for head coach Arcentae Broome after making a decision to never marry or father children, because he didn't want anyone to watch him suffer.
"I think that's why he did so much for these other kids," Broome said. "If the kids needed food sometimes, or if they needed shoes or clothing, he would do it."
"He made it to make point that he did not want to pass it on to his own kids, so he sort of adopted those other boys. We would go to a family function, and he would say, 'These are my sons. These are my sons,"' Bell Fears said.
So, the man with his own countless broken dreams became a dream maker for others. And the man who fought through searing pain helped young men build a future he could never have.
Holt's funeral is set for Friday morning. The Maplewood football team has asked for an hour at the visitation to make a presentation in his honor and express their appreciation for the man who accomplished so much.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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