Johnny Holton had 110 people in the stands to watch his homecoming game; he wished it was 111.
Sunday night's clash against the Miami Dolphins marked the end of a 10-day East Coast swing for the Oakland Raiders, but it also marked a return to South Florida, a return home, for Holton. The second-year receiver grew up in Miami, playing prep football at Coconut Grove High School, and with the Raiders set to make their lone trip to the Sunshine State this weekend, Holton made sure to go above and beyond to make sure his friends and family could watch him play.
However, as big of a cheering section as No. 16 had Sunday night, there was one, big absence from the Johnny Holton faction at Hard Rock Stadium.
"My aunty passed away this year," said Holton postgame. "She led me down the right path, and by her not being here, it was a lot of emotion going into the game because I wanted her to come see me play."
The former Cincinnati Bearcat went to visit his old neighborhood while he was in town, and come game time, Holton ensured that his contingent went home happy, as he hauled in a 44-yard touchdown from Derek Carr in the second quarter, to help the Silver and Black re-take the lead over the Dolphins.
"We practiced that play the whole week, preparing for it," Holton explained. "Derek made a great throw. He always puts the ball right on the spot for me, and I made a catch."
Holton had just a single target Sunday night – the aforementioned 44-yard score – giving him two catches on the year, and you guessed it, two touchdowns.
With playmakers in abundance on the offensive side of the football – at wide receiver in particular – Holton knows that he likely won't see a ton of passes coming his way, but Carr made sure to give him credit for making the most of what are admittedly limited opportunities.
"We have two starting receivers that are pretty darn good," Carr said postgame. "It's hard to get on the field in the NFL, and when you do, you have to make plays and Johnny has. He does a good job of letting me know when he's in the huddle. (laughter) He's really good at that."
Jalen Richard knows a little bit about homecomings; last season, the Baton Rouge-native took his very first NFL carry 75 yards to the house at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the New Orleans Saints, so Richard knows that just like his score last year, Sunday night is going to be a moment in time that Holton will likely never forget.
"It's these type of moments that you remember for the rest of your life," Richard said. "It's almost surreal. It was surreal for me, I know it's probably surreal for Johnny. It's like, I'm at home, I just scored. This is something you worked so hard for, the different things that went on in your life that could have just taken this thing all the way left, and for you to be in your home state, you got your family, your friends in the stadium, and then you go score an NFL touchdown."
"I think when a guy who doesn't play a lot is able to score a touchdown in your hometown, all those things, Sunday night primetime football, the story should be all about him, because that's just a really cool thing," Carr added. "We get caught up in the game a lot, but we're people too. And for him to come home in front of his family, his friends, his buddies and be able to score a touchdown on primetime, that's a pretty cool story."
The Raiders flew back to Northern California late Sunday night with a much needed 27-24 win – Holton was quick to note that was the best part of his night – but being able to score such a big touchdown in front of his hometown crowd was likely the perfect cap to his return trip to Florida.
And while his 111th fan might not have been one of the 65,139 people physically at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday night, Holton believes she still gave him a little bit of a boost.
"She's always up there watching me play," Holton said. "And I feel like that's why I got into the end zone today."