Former Sunnyside & Arizona standout Harry Holt, 66, passes away

Harry Holt with wife Tracy in a 2020 family photo

Harry Holt, who transferred to Sunnyside his senior year of 1975-76 and became a high-profile Arizona recruit as a running back as well as an accomplished track athlete, has passed away because of health reasons at the age of 66.

Holt, 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds as a high school athlete, came to Tucson in 1975 from Harlingen, Texas, and became an instant sensation for Paul Petty’s Sunnyside football team that fall.

Despite missing three games because of an injury, Holt rushed for 729 yards on 129 carries with seven touchdowns and became an all-city selection.

He posted the city’s fastest time of 9.5 seconds in the 100-meter dash that spring. He also set the Sunnyside record with a long jump of 23 feet and 9 3/4 inches.

Harry Holt was Tucson’s top sprinter and long jumper as a senior at Sunnyside in 1975-76 (Tucson CItizen photo)

Arizona football coach Jim Young recruited him and signed him in 1976, the same year Amphi quarterback Jim Krohn joined the program.

Holt produced an Arizona-record four rushing touchdowns in a win over UTEP his freshman season.

After Tony Mason replaced Young in 1977, Holt switched to receiver.

Holt became the Wildcats’ top receiver but had a personality conflict with Mason and was dismissed from the team after he missed a charter bus following a 23-7 loss to No. 19 ASU at the end of the 1977 season.

He had 24 catches for 423 yards with 11 touchdowns that season.

Harry Holt made the front page of the Los Angeles Times sports page after making his first NFL touchdown reception in overtime of the Cleveland Browns’ win at the San Diego Chargers

Holt went on to excel as a tight end in the CFL with the British Columbia Lions. He was selected to the Lions’ 50th Anniversary Dream Team. He had 137 receptions for 2,364 yards with 14 touchdowns in his five years with British Columbia.

He later played five years in the NFL as a tight end with the Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers from 1983-87.

Immediately after retiring from football, he sold automobiles in Tucson for two years before working 12 years with the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

He went into the mental-health field working at St Mary’s Hospital, Sonora Behavioral Health Hospital and Desert Hills Hospital for Youth & Families.

In recent years, Holt moved near Des Moines, Iowa, where his wife Tracy hails from. That is where he passed away on Nov. 24.

Holt’s health condition demanded the aid of oxygen in the last few years.

Former Sunnyside teammate David Adams, who also went on to be a talented running back at Arizona, mentioned in a text message of his friend Holt: “He was an all around great athlete and person. Very friendly.”

Holt was a top target of former British Columbia quarterback Joe Paopao, who is the uncle of Arizona tight ends and special teams coach Jordan Paopao.

Holt’s first NFL touchdown, which occurred in the 1983 season as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns, was a spectacular one.

He caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from Brian Sipe 1:53 into overtime to beat the San Diego Chargers 30-24.

The Los Angeles Times reported after the game that 10 NFL teams sought him in free agency after his productive five years with British Columbia in the CFL.

The Browns won the bidding war.

“I was real excited because it was overtime and the ball was coming my way,” Holt told the Times. “I’m glad I lived up to expectations.”


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top