"If I came into the training room with an injury, they didn't take it seriously. I would try to ask the coaches something and they just told me to go on so they could deal with scholarship players. It was frustrating."
Like many other walk-on players, he debated calling it quits after his first year. Then he realized he was not that far behind scholarship players that were playing ahead of him even though he was an undersized defensive end.
"I realized I was doing pretty well against offensive linemen considering I weighed 220 pounds. I knew I would grow and I was already winning at least once every five or six times in our drills against the linemen," Holts said. "I was thinking I would just stick it out and see how it worked. The next year I got some playing time and knew this is where I needed to be."
Holts and Justin Haydock, another former walk-on player, became starting linebackers in new defensive coordinator Mike Archer's system this year. Archer moved Holts to linebacker to take advantage of his speed and athleticism.
"He's really becoming a good player for us," Archer said. "He just needed to get experience. We knew he could be a playmaker, and he has been. He's not been perfect, but he's learning and improving every game. He's made mistakes, but he's also made big plays when he's had the chance."
He remembers not being able to eat at the training table
Holts, though, still remembers when he couldn't even eat at the training table with scholarship players until he finally earned a scholarship.
"It is frustrating when you can't even eat at the training table," Holts said. "I don't know what some coaches are thinking about when they recruit, but some people they recruited I thought, 'How are they on scholarship and I'm not?' I just didn't understand.
"The frustrating part is seeing somebody you know is not better than you, yet he's on scholarship and you are not. Some scholarship guys throw it in your face. I had that happen. They would have that meal money or rent money as part of their scholarship check and you wouldn't. That was tough, but it also motivated me."
If that wasn't enough, he also would constantly get questioned about his playing status when he would return home and when he would be going on scholarship.
"People meant well, but it got to be aggravating," Holts said. "I didn't want to tell them I was good enough to be on scholarship but wasn't. Who would believe that?"
Still, Holts insists he's not bitter, just honest. He also says he would advise any other player, especially an in-state player, not to be afraid to pursue his dream of playing Division I football if a scholarship offer is not available.
"Coaches are not perfect. They make mistakes, especially in recruiting," Holts said. "There are a lot of good players that don't get scholarships, or at least not to the school that they really want to attend.
"If you believe you can do it, then do it. Just know it won't be easy, especially that first year or two when all the scholarship guys get a lot more chances to show what they can do than you will. But if you have the talent and can stick it, eventually you'll get a chance and then all the aggravation will be worth it."