HILL COUNTRY ALUM IS PLAYING FOR KEEPS
Interview and Article by Jake Strubhar – Alumni Relations Coordinator
He has more than 2.5 million subscribers, garners over 1,000 views per hour when releasing a new video, and is recognized by fans in restaurants and on airplanes around the world. Attributes like these describe many celebrities and athletes, but if you add, “Christian” to that list, it becomes much more narrow. Then attach “Hill Country graduate,” to that list, and you are left with one person—Michael Holt—aka MOLT.
After throwing his last pitch from the mound as a Hill Country Knight in the spring of 2006, Michael Holt ’06, had no idea that he would end up a wildly successful YouTube star in just a few years. Today, after many changes to his initial plan, Michael finds himself traveling the world and making a living by doing the very thing that some students are tempted to do a bit too much—playing video games.
Michael’s path to success started at Hill Country, but in somewhat of an unconventional way. “When I was at Hill Country I didn’t have the best grades,” says Michael.
“I learned in a different way. It was very difficult for me to retain information. A lot of people just learn differently. Some people don’t have to study for a test and ace it. I could study for three hours and get a ‘C’.” Eventually diagnosed with a learning disorder, Michael began to get creative with his studying. “When I had to memorize things for English class, like poetry, I would go outside and skateboard and say the poem out loud. I was doing something I enjoyed, and I would memorize it so much faster than I would have while sitting at my desk.”
Despite a common assumption that “gamers” are not athletic, Michael grew up loving baseball and football and participated in both sports as a Knight. He warmly recounted the end of a particular football season when Coach Philip Hudgens spoke life and encouragement into him and his fellow tear-filled teammates, thanking them for a great playoff run and finally making a dream of Coach Hudgens’ come true—getting to play football when it was cold outside.
Although Michael enjoyed his time on the football team, his true sports allegiance was to baseball. “Coach Craycroft—love him very much. He was such an influential person in my life,” says Michael, also reminiscing about the biscuits and gravy he enjoyed over Bible study at the Craycroft home. His pitching made such an impression in the league that years after his graduation, umpires and referees at games asked, “Is that guy with the slider still here?”
Upon graduation, Michael planned to walk onto the baseball team at Western Carolina. He intended to use his first season as a college player to bulk up, get stronger, and begin throwing in the nineties. But those plans would never come to fruition. One hot summer day preceding his freshman year of college, Michael was spending the afternoon with his friends on the river. A simple jump onto a rope swing is all it took to change the course of his life. “I jumped, and the rope wrapped around my arm—cutting completely through my tricep and disconnecting it,” he says, “and my bicep was 75% severed.” Due to the massive nerve damage, Michael didn’t have use of his hand for five months after the accident. “The doctors said I should not have been able to use my arm again, or I should have bled to death. In their minds, there were no other options.”
Michael endured years of physical therapy and rehabilitation that kept him from pursuing his baseball dream. He defied the odds, and his arm is back to full mobility. “It works perfectly. It’s a bit weird-looking now, but it works just fine! It was very clear that the Lord had other plans for me, and they didn’t include baseball even though I wanted them to. I could look at my arm as a negative, but I could also redefine that situation as the shift in direction that was going to take me to where I am now—having a bigger impact than I would have had playing baseball.”
After finishing college at the University of South Carolina, Michael began a career in graphic design, and also began to play a simple game on his phone in his spare time.
“I started playing a game called Clash of Clans on my phone and went online to see if there were any videos on it. I found a couple and thought, I can do this. I can make these videos. I started making my own as a fun little part-time gig.” As you may have guessed, his YouTube channel name, MOLT, comes from a combination of his first and last names. “I was posting about four videos per week but really didn’t make any money from it for the first year. Eventually, it started growing, and after a year and a half, I started making as much money on YouTube as I was at my graphic design job. At that point, Michael decided to commit to being a full-time “YouTuber” and he quit his job in graphic design. “I quit. It was scary. I was scared, and my parents were scared!”
Fast-forward to today, and Michael is now well into a successful career as a professional game streamer, spending most of his working time streaming himself playing well-known games such as Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, and more. Michael’s multiple YouTube channels contain thousands of viral videos, and he now makes his living from YouTube advertising revenue, as well as from his numerous sponsorships and partnerships. Not unlike a professional athlete, “MOLT” is flown around the world to announce for and play in tournaments on behalf of Supercell, the makers of Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. He recently logged his ninth trip to Helsinki, Finland. “I actually wanted to be a news anchor before I studied graphic design,” he says. “It’s really cool that I went full circle and get to be a news anchor of sorts for some of these tournaments.”
Michael gives his wife Rachel a lot of credit for her support of his unconventional career, but she did not let his fame get in the way of figuring out who he really was. “She didn’t watch a single one of my videos for the first three months we dated because she wanted to get to know me, not my internet persona.”
In addition to Michael’s game-streaming channel, he and Rachel have a personal YouTube channel that is full of insightful, funny, and honest content that Rachel edits and curates called, The Holts. “The second channel isn’t a business thing, it isn’t for us to make money. It’s for us to try to have an impact on people,” says Michael. “If it impacts one person, it’s worth it.”
He recently hosted Gaten Matarazzo and Noah Schnapp of the well-known Netflix series Stranger Things for a Brawl Stars tournament. Despite knowing success firsthand, Michael says he was pretty starstruck upon first meeting the Netflix stars—telling them how much he loved Stranger Things, to which Noah replied, “I used to watch your videos on YouTube.” Michael says, “It was super fun and surreal—really fun to be able to hang out with those guys.”
However, it’s not all fun and games for Michael. His work often requires travel away from his wife and home, countless hours of publishing, and sometimes involves boredom due to playing the same game for long periods. “There is definitely a misconception. There are a lot of things that make YouTubers’ jobs difficult. We don’t have coworkers, so it can be very lonely. Despite many YouTubers having millions of subscribers and followers, loneliness and depression are very common.”
When asked what tips and tricks he would give to aspiring YouTubers, Michael delivered honest feedback. “Don’t do it to be famous, don’t do it to be successful, because if you go into it with those motives—when it isn’t going well—you’ll feel defeated. If you go into it because you enjoy it and you want to have an impact on people, or because you’re having fun making videos—that’s when it’s going to work out.”
Michael’s advice isn’t just limited to gaming and streaming. When discussing how his time at Hill Country prepared him for his career, as unconventional as it is, he said, “Training to apply yourself in situations where you don’t want to be, prepares you to be successful in places you do want to be. It’s like being on the mound, throwing a 70mph fastball, and then throwing an 80mph fastball a month later because I’ve been training. That application from the classroom can transfer all over the place to whatever you end up doing with your life.”
Michael, now a North Carolina resident, misses several things about Texas. “I miss the waterparks, the food in general, and the hills,” also noting that he especially misses Rudy’s Bar-B-Q. When asked what he would say to all of his former teachers if given a chance, he said the following, “Thank you for putting up with my shenanigans and for being patient with me as I figured out how I learned best.” Michael plans to continue streaming his game playing for the foreseeable future and is always on the lookout for the next big thing in gaming.