January 3, 2000 - by
Hokies’ Holder Toils In Anonymity

Jan. 3, 2000



By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Caleb Hurd has a big frame, soft hands and is celebrated
on a “Hurd for Heisman” Web site. He wasn’t recruited, except for an
invitation to be a Virginia Tech walk-on, and doesn’t even have a scholarship.

Never heard of him? Well, he was part of the play that saved the Hokies’
season, Shayne Graham’s 44-yard, game-ending field goal that beat West Virginia
22-20. If they had lost, the Hokies wouldn’t be playing Florida State for the
national title Tuesday night in the Sugar Bowl.

Hurd holds for Graham, his second cousin, and that’s it. The 6-foot-3,
202-pounder barely did anything else at Pulaski County (Va.) High School, where
he joined the football team “because everyone else did.”

Baseball was his sport but his specialty is now holding, a job sometimes
taken for granted but often crucial to a team’s success.

If there were All-American holders, Hurd would probably be one. He’s put the
ball where Graham wants it on 261 straight kicks, a string that dates to 1996
and the second game of his Virginia Tech holding career.

None was bigger than the field goal that beat the Mountaineers this season.

When the ball was snapped, Hurd was down on one knee, eye on the ball,
knowing the Hokies’ magical season was spinning toward his hands. The play
seemed to unfold in slow motion for Hurd after snapper Cliff Anders released
the ball.

“The whole moment from when Anders let go of it till when it got to me took
forever,” he said. “I just looked the ball all the way in.”

Then, as he has done for the last six years, he placed it down, laces out,
held it up just the way Graham likes it and waited for contact.

BOOM! Up! Good! Euphoria.

“I didn’t realize until I watched that part of the game again how tense it
really was,” said Hurd, who has replayed the tape over and over.

He said he knew Graham would make it because he’d missed a game-winner
against Miami a year earlier.

“He couldn’t get that out of his mind and he couldn’t wait to get another
shot,” Hurd said.

Six years with Hurd as his holder have been a “godsend,” Graham said.

“There are insecurities in anything you do, and you always feel more
comfortable the less insecure you are,” he said. “He takes away one of those
insecurity factors … and that’s one less thing I have to worry about.”

Hurd has gotten used to being virtually anonymous on the team, and he’s
sheepish about the Web site.

While coming onto the field for the Hokies game against Clemson on Sept. 23,
he saw a “Hurd for Heisman” banner.

“I thought it was one of my friends doing something fun,” he said,
laughing. “But I found out some random graduate students had just thought it
would be fun to fix something up for the holder. They ended up making a Web
site.”

The site is for “the very few cloistered souls” who still don’t know about
Hurd, it says. It complains that he wasn’t one of the five invited to the
Heisman presentation in New York and celebrates the holder’s contribution to
the Hokies.

Hurd, though, hopes his anonymity continues for at least a few more days.

“If nobody knows who I am, it means I’m doing something right,” he said.
“If I drop the ball, everyone in the country will know who I am after
Tuesday.”

Related Articles