Late in the third quarter, with his team marching towards the end zone Penn quarterback Billy Ragone called a play designed for a certain wide receiver. A skinny post route against man-to-man coverage.
As the team broke the huddle, Ragone told the wideout he was going to be throwing to a spot just as he did in practice. Joe Holder knew just what to do.
Four years earlier, Holder had walked on to Penn’s football team and earned his spot as a freshman. He didn’t play at all that season. And after a decent sophomore year he injured his ankle in the third game of his junior season and missed the rest of the campaign.
On Saturday at Franklin Field, the senior ran the skinny post route right past a Brown defender, leaped up and hauled in a 22-yard Ragone pass while falling on his back to record his first career touchdown.
“It was exciting,” said Holder. “I was definitely happy about it, to get the opportunity to make a play. That’s kind of the philosophy around here.”
After graduating from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, Holder’s high school coach helped him get a tryout with the Quakers and earn himself a walk-on spot on the roster. He’s started four of the Quakers’ five games this season and has hauled in 12 passes for 129 yards.
“I’m a walk-on, but fortunately no one treats me like one,” said Holder. “I earned my playing time.”
The Quakers rallied for 27 points in the fourth quarter on Saturday to knock off visiting Yale, 37-25, and stay undefeated in the Ivy League. Despite trailing by ten points entering the quarter, Holder said he had no doubt his team would rally to win.
“You look at the clock, it struck zero at the end of the third quarter and you see the score,” said Holder. “But, you look at your teammates eyes and there’s no inkling of any doubt that we’re going to lose the game. To come back and score that many unanswered points is an amazing feeling.”
After injuring his ankle early in his junior season, Holder said it was difficult to come back but battled through rehab with the help of his coaches and teammates.
“I’m not going to lie about it, I definitely had my moments where I was upset about it,” said Holder. “But, you just keep working hard.”
Contact staff writer Matt Breen at firstname.lastname@example.org or @matt_breen on Twitter.