David Flores, Staff Writer
Publication: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Section: Sports
Date: July 10, 2002
Edition: METRO
Page: 10C

Ten years ago, Priest Anthony Holmes was preparing for his freshman season as a running back at Texas after helping Marshall reach the Class 5A Division II title game in 1991. Holmes had a solid collegiate career despite missing an entire season with a knee injury, but it was hardly surprising when he was bypassed in the ’97 NFL Draft. Teams tend to shy away from running backs with surgically repaired knees. But true to his gritty character, Holmes made the Baltimore Ravens’ roster as a free agent in ’97. He played four seasons in Baltimore and earned a Super Bowl ring before moving to Kansas City last year.

Signed to a five-year, $8 million contract, Holmes showed the Chiefs his appreciation by leading the NFL in rushing yards (1,555) and yards from scrimmage (2,169). Both totals set franchise records. Tonight, he will walk into the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles as a nominee for an ESPY Award as the NFL’s best player. “I was really blessed,” Holmes said recently while helping at a football camp in San Antonio. “It’s a season I’ll always remember.” The Chiefs finished 6-10 in their first season under Coach Dick Vermeil. “I like Coach Vermeil,” Holmes said. “He’s an old-school coach, an emotional guy who tells it like it is. He gets close to his players and gets on you when you mess up. But he’ll always tell you things like, ‘You know, you should have caught that pass. You can do it.’

“When you do something good, he’s going to praise you. He just wants you to be the best you can be.”

Other nominees in the Best NFL Player ESPY category are New England quarterback Tom Brady, St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. In a story posted on the Chiefs’ Web site Tuesday, Holmes said, “This is quite an honor. I’m looking forward to going to California. “I’m taking my father (Herman Morris) with me and we’re both ready for the sunny West Coast after all the rain we’ve been getting in San Antonio.”

Holmes played at Texas from ’92 to ’96, missing the ’95 season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during spring workouts. Splitting time with Shon Mitchell at tailback, he bounced back with 324 yards and 13 TDs as a senior. Holmes finished his career with 1,276 yards and 20 touchdowns. He continued to defy the odds by landing a job with Baltimore. After playing in only seven games as a rookie, Holmes led the Ravens in rushing the following season with 1,008 yards.

“Priest is sound all the way around – mentally and physically,” said Bay Bay McClinton, a San Antonio trainer who works with Holmes in the offseason. “He’s a fighter. “When you’re a free agent, you have to work extra hard. Priest still trains like he’s a free agent, even though he led the league in rushing last year. He knows what it takes to be a winner. He hasn’t forgotten how hard he had to work to get where he’s at now.”

Holmes was the Express-News’ Greater San Antonio Offensive Player of the Year as a senior in ’91, when he rushed for 2,053 yards and 26 touchdowns. He piled up those stats despite missing the Rams’ final four regular-season games because of a severe thigh injury.

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