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tk13
09-25-2005, 01:43 AM
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/12734628.htm

Priest Holmes, the other guy
Chiefs star is No. 1 in a tandem, and he’s used to sharing the load

By ELIZABETH MERRILL
The Kansas City Star


The next great thing has just posed for a newspaper cover with his underwear showing, and the guys in the locker room are razzing Larry Johnson. He drops his text messaging and engages in the banter. It’s late in the afternoon, and it’s getting barroom loud.

Priest Holmes stands a locker apart and a world away, oblivious to the laughter, scrambling to get to a meeting. He grabs his shirt and heads out the door.

“I’m excited about him,” Holmes says. “I remember when I was young like him.”

Only in the NFL can a man throw his body over a pile of people, run for 72 touchdowns and hear the cries from fans to step aside for somebody younger. PLAY LJ, the Internet boards scream.

Holmes has heard the lobbying before, in another city, another time. Inevitably, he’s always ended up as the other guy. He grew up dreaming to play for the Dallas Cowboys and got as close as Austin. In Texas, he shared the backfield with Ricky Williams, then didn’t get drafted. He ended up at Baltimore, then was nudged to the bench when the Ravens drafted Jamal Lewis.

Now Holmes is the man in Kansas City, pushing 32 and in the prime of his career, but hearing some younger cleats closing in. Holmes doesn’t stop. He invites Johnson along for the run.

Holmes genuinely wants this to work, this two-back rotation. Two weeks ago in the season opener against the Jets, he’d just broken a 35-yard run. He told Johnson to spell him. On the next play, Johnson ran 35 yards for a touchdown.

Holmes says it isn’t about him. He’s scored plenty, and he’ll score plenty more.

“We all wanted Emmitt Smith to continue to play, not to retire,” Holmes says. “But I think in football there comes a time where this is a game for young people. And I’m not one to shy away from that. You know, I’ve done everything I could while I was here. The only thing left is winning a Super Bowl.”

When Bucky Godbolt watches Holmes and Johnson on TV, it reminds him of the old times at Texas.

Godbolt, the Longhorns’ former running backs coach, scored a college football coup in the mid-1990s when he landed Holmes and Williams in the same backfield. Williams was big with a burst like Johnson. Everybody knew he’d be a star. Holmes was somewhat of a late bloomer.

He tore his ACL in 1995 and was a relative unknown when he ran for 120 yards and three touchdowns in the Big 12 championship game against Nebraska.

“His body changed so much from his freshman to junior year,” Godbolt says. “That wasn’t the juice, just hard work.”

That 1-2 Texas punch worked on and off the field. Holmes and Williams used to play jokes on their coach, hiding alongside the bus before road trips while Godbolt panicked. They’d finally show up about three minutes before they’d leave, but their similarities ended there.

Williams was the flashy player, the dreadlocked star whose face was plastered all over Heisman Trophy fliers. Holmes was the low-key one who was a father by his sophomore year in college.

“Priest thought I babied Ricky way too much,” Godbolt says. “He thought I let him get away with too much. Dealing with Priest was like dealing with an NFL guy in college. He would tell you what he thought. But he helped Ricky an awful lot with how he worked, with his ethic.

“They didn’t spend a lot of time talking and sitting around shooting the bull, but boy, when they were on the field together … that was good stuff.”

Holmes says he never thought about numbers or hype when he left Texas and went undrafted. He just wondered whether this football thing could pay the bills for his family. He played four seasons in Baltimore and was the second-leading rusher in 2000 when the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

Holmes became a free agent after the season, and the Ravens tried to re-sign him to play Lewis’ understudy. Holmes saw an opportunity with the Chiefs and newly hired coach Dick Vermeil and grabbed it.

When Holmes talks about winning a Super Bowl ring with the Chiefs, he almost makes it sound like it would be his first.

“Not that I don’t appreciate what I did in Baltimore, and helping on that team,” he says. “But being here in Kansas City, and the way coach Vermeil brought me in to be his running back, there’s just a big difference between those teams.”

But Holmes did have some good times in Baltimore, especially with veteran Earnest Byner, who showed him the ropes of being an NFL running back. Byner’s mentoring, in part, compelled Holmes to help Johnson.

When Ed Podolak hears fans grouse for Johnson, he says it’s typical.

Podolak, who was a hard-nosed Chiefs running back, does broadcasts for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He knows how the most popular player is often the young one waiting on the bench. Podolak was traveling to Ohio State this weekend when he found out Holmes needs 20 touches from scrimmage to break Podolak’s decades-old Chiefs record of 1,445. Holmes has done it in five seasons.

“He’s been the heart and soul of that team for a number of years now,” Podolak says. “When you think about how much he’s given to the team, to have somebody think he ought to be beaten out, that’s nutty.”

Holmes has overcome injuries to his knee and hip to rush for a franchise-record 5,642 yards. He was recovering from the hip injury in 2003 when the Chiefs drafted Johnson in the first round. The rookie sat for much of 2003 and was third on the depth chart at the start of ’04.

Then Holmes went down with a knee injury, and Johnson showed flashes of his Penn State greatness, rushing for 581 yards and nine touchdowns at the end of the season.

Podolak says the two-back rotation will help Holmes.

“The thing I like about it is he’s going to get a little bit of a spell,” he says. “I’ll bet you he’s going to like having Larry Johnson helping. When you get over the age of 30 — that’s when I retired — it becomes very difficult to recover from one week to the next. That’s just the facts of life.

“It would be very difficult for him to pick up the pace he’s had over the last few years. I think Larry being able to help him is going to be good for both of them.”

Holmes wasn’t winded when he told Johnson to relieve him early in the Jets game. He wanted to get the youngster involved early and thought it would fool the defense.

The Chiefs took just 1 minute and 21 seconds to score their first touchdown on that drive. After the game, Johnson called the duo “The Church Backfield.”

“Priest prays over them,” Johnson says, “and I bury them.”

Holmes didn’t say much of anything. As usual, he slipped away, avoiding the spotlight.

When Tony Richardson says Holmes doesn’t care about Kansas City’s infatuation with Johnson, he means it.

Holmes and Richardson were raised as military sons, in houses where regiment ruled and a person didn’t draw attention to himself. Holmes’ father, Herman Morris, was in Iraq last year and spent 18 hours a day on his feet. He was hobbled with an ankle injury in the desert but waited to have surgery until he got back in the States. He didn’t want to leave his unit.

“Every offseason since he’s been in the league, he goes out and trains with some military guys for like two months,” Richardson says.

“Anything Priest Holmes does really doesn’t surprise me because I know what his heart is. I know his work ethic and how hard he prepares himself to get ready to play.”

There were times in college when Godbolt wondered whether Holmes was having any fun. He never hung around the locker room and joked with his buddies, never fiddled with a PlayStation. Holmes just wanted to go home, hit the books and spend time with his son.

“Priest isn’t going to sit down and tell you his life or pour his guts out to you,” Godbolt says.

The closest he comes is on the field, slipping and cutting, diving over a pile into the end zone. In between the white lines, Holmes says, he doesn’t have to worry about anything, his family, his body or his future.

Outside the lines, Holmes knows his time is fading. If Holmes were not sharing time with Johnson, Vermeil says, he’d be averaging at least 100 yards a game. Instead he’s rushed 41 times for 160 yards in a 2-0 start. Johnson has 151 yards on 18 carries with three touchdowns.

“I think both of those guys, at least right now, are handling it pretty well,” Vermeil says. “I don’t know that Larry likes it as much or can handle it quite as much as Priest, but he’s mature enough to handle it correctly right now.”

Right now, Holmes embraces the two-back rotation. He calls it exciting. And he knows there will always be a place, in short-yardage situations or game-turning plays, when experience is needed.

He’s not the Chiefs’ other guy. He’s not a cover boy, either. Holmes will just settle for the title of teammate.

“Three or four years down the line,” Holmes says, “I would hope to say I’m off in the sunset and retired somewhere riding my motorcycle and fishing and doing all those things I love to do in the offseason. As long as it takes to get to the Super Bowl, that’s how long I’ll be here.”

Rausch
09-25-2005, 02:02 AM
The two players who deserve a ring most are Shields and Holmes.

Two guys who have given 110% and gotten nothing in return...

mitchbade
09-25-2005, 02:07 AM
Priest is probably the most humble football player in the nfl today

Pants
09-25-2005, 02:07 AM
The two players who deserve a ring most are Shields and Holmes.

Two guys who have given 110% and gotten nothing in return...

I'd add Roaf, Trent and T-Rich to that.

beer bacon
09-25-2005, 02:13 AM
I'd add Roaf, Trent and T-Rich to that.

Don't forget Eric Hicks.

Pants
09-25-2005, 02:15 AM
Don't forget Eric Hicks.

ROFL

Bob Dole
09-25-2005, 08:10 AM
Wow. An article from Liz and we have absolutely no idea what Priest was wearing.

Maybe there's hope.

PastorMikH
09-25-2005, 08:58 AM
That's the best article I have read in quite a while.

I want to see LJ do great, but Priest is still the man. He's the one I want on the field when the game is on the line and we need that yard.

stevieray
09-25-2005, 09:06 AM
yawn

Thig Lyfe
09-25-2005, 09:11 AM
Pretty good article.

Priest is the epitome of a selfless player.

Count Zarth
09-25-2005, 09:20 AM
Priest should just retire after this year. LJ is the man.

Priest will probably get hurt again, anyway. Sad, but true.

HemiEd
09-25-2005, 09:28 AM
Nice problem to have, two great running backs.

carlos3652
09-25-2005, 09:40 AM
I would rather have LJ start next season and have Priest spell him, kinda like the Jackson/Faulk backfield.

Can you imagine having Priest in when LJ was tired... I hope this backfield lasts until we find a quality Back up in 2 years.

Bob Dole
09-25-2005, 09:51 AM
Priest should just retire after this year. LJ is the man.

Priest will probably get hurt again, anyway. Sad, but true.

That's okay, because we're covered since Blaylo...

Oh. No we're not.

TRR
09-25-2005, 10:05 AM
As long as Priest can do what Priest does, LJ should be watching from the sideline, and spelling Priest. LJ has me thoroughly convinced that he will not be able to handle the spotlight when Holmes is gone....not yet. LJ has some major growing up to do.

btlook1
09-25-2005, 10:33 AM
Nice article. I hope Priest sticks around if we don't go all the way this year...

Ari Chi3fs
09-25-2005, 10:40 AM
3-4 years or however long it takes? Wow.

Priest is the man, and this is the first I have heard about him having a kid as a sophomore in College. That right there really helped him grow up.

Ultra Peanut
09-25-2005, 08:50 PM
I'll take the crack-smoking young gunner over the wife-beating old guy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

leviw
09-25-2005, 09:06 PM
If Holmes were not sharing time with Johnson, Vermeil says, he’d be averaging at least 100 yards a game. Instead he’s rushed 41 times for 160 yards in a 2-0 start. Johnson has 151 yards on 18 carries with three touchdowns.

That's pretty amazing. I agree with Priest. I hope this two-back offense can work this year, next year...or as long as Priest wants to keep going. I think with Saunders' mind and Priest's humble attitude, it can work. I just don't know if LJ is willing to share the spotlight...

PastorMikH
09-25-2005, 09:24 PM
Priest should just retire after this year. LJ is the man.

Priest will probably get hurt again, anyway. Sad, but true.



Personally, any given play anyone can get hurt. Saying Priest will probably get hurt - what if it is LJ? What if Priest quits next year and LJ gets hurt in game 2? LJ hasn't been on the field enough yet to show me that he'll be durable yet. Yes Priest has been hurt and didn't finish 2 of his years here - though I think he could have played at the end of last year if we were in the hunt for a playoff spot. Priest on the other hand has showed that injuries that could have ended his career, and have ended other player's careers, won't stop him - he just keeps coming back better.


And I agree with TRR, I'm not sure LJ can handle the spotlight all by himself.

Count Zarth
09-25-2005, 09:27 PM
If Priest gets hurt again, he's going to retire.

I don't think he will, actually. LJ is going to keep him fresh as hell.

tk13
09-25-2005, 09:27 PM
I think LJ can handle the spotlight. I hope so. Well I guess really he hasn't proven it because he's only started like 5 meaningless games last year. I do think Priest is the proven bread and butter, no reason to go away from it while it's still working.

Halfcan
09-25-2005, 09:28 PM
Priest is a class act. He is still mgoing to put up great numbers the next few years on his way to the HOF.

PastorMikH
09-25-2005, 09:35 PM
If Priest gets hurt again, he's going to retire.




From what I've seen of Priest so far, I'm not so sure about that. They guy has been pretty clear in the article and elsewhere that he wants to win the SB. I think as long as he feels the Chiefs are a contender and he can help them get there, he will be there.

I also think that both LJ and Priest will benifit from each other. Not in individual stats persay, but in what they can do on any given play can be drastic due to both being fresher.

PastorMikH
09-25-2005, 09:37 PM
I think LJ can handle the spotlight. I hope so. Well I guess really he hasn't proven it because he's only started like 5 meaningless games last year. I do think Priest is the proven bread and butter, no reason to go away from it while it's still working.


Sorry, mis-quote. TRR was the person that typed what I read about the spotlight. I do think LJ has grown up a lot, but I don't think he is to the point where the sucess won't go to his head yet.