Publication: Sports Illustrated
Date: May 20, 2002
The cocky kids, a couple of athletic 11th-graders with the requisite mix of energy and attitude, couldn’t accept the truth.They had heard that a star NFL running back was in Austin,visiting a friend in their apartment building, but when they went looking for him last month, all they found was a sheepish-looking guy with bulging biceps. They giggled when he said he was Priest Holmes of the Kansas City Chiefs.
“O.K., if you’re really him, stand up and let’s see how big you are,” one demanded. When the 5’9″ Holmes complied, the boys shrugged, still unconvinced. Then the other teen issued a challenge: “I bet I can beat you in a 40.” Minutes later, they were all outside, pacing off the distance in the parking lot.Holmes, clad in street clothes and gym shoes, sprinted four times on that humid evening, until his back ached and his joints throbbed. “I must be crazy,” Holmes says today. “But I think I showed them something.”
There is a familiar pattern to Holmes’s life: He impresses nobody on first sight, but given time and opportunity, he finds a way to reveal his gifts. He raced those kids to inspire them, to show them what determination and desire can accomplish. Size really doesn’t matter, Holmes seemed to be saying with each of those sprints. Heart does.
Of course, Holmes also wanted to win. He loves showing challengers that they can’t compete with him, which explains his excitement about the upcoming season, his sixth in the league.With wide receivers Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison expected to improve Kansas City’s disappointing passing attack, Holmes should find even more room to embarrass defenders, which he did often during his breakout season in 2001. An unheralded free agent deemed too fragile to be an every-down back in Baltimore, Holmes led the NFL and set team records for rushing yards (1,555) and total yards from scrimmage (2,169) while catching 62 passes and scoring 10 touchdowns en route to his first Pro Bowl. “We want him touching the ball 30 times a game,” says Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil. “It doesn’t take a genius to realize that good things will keep happening if we do that.”