In San Antonio, Holmes is the high Priest of kids
By RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Special to The Star
He’s keeping fit and managing his foundation, but Priest Holmes doesn't spend any time thinking about football.
He was once among the greatest runners the Chiefs had ever seen. These days, Priest Holmes still refuses to be slowed down.
Retirement has an entirely different meaning for a former NFL player with five children and a foundation to which he’s devoted himself. He’s managing a staff, finding new ways to keep fit and playing chauffeur to his kids — and, except to work with his athlete sons, Holmes says he doesn’t even think about football anymore.
“I do not miss it,” he said from his foundation office in San Antonio. “To get 50,000 to 60,000 people to come to their feet every Sunday is a lot of pressure. … I can’t believe every Sunday I tried to make all of these people happy … and now I don’t have to.”
These days, Holmes reserves his passion for making things better for the kids of his hometown of San Antonio, as well as Kansas City. He has spent much of the past year focusing on the Priest Holmes Foundation, which he started in 2005 while still in KC.
“I’m leveraging my 11 years in the NFL,” he said.
Holmes’ foundation has a staff of four and is focused on creating strategic partnerships to keep funds flowing. One of their efforts is the Priest Holmes-Spurs Student Incentive Program that provides 20 game tickets and 10 parking passes to every San Antonio Spurs home game to students who meet certain criteria established by their school districts.
“Encouraging education in the No. 1 thing we do,” Holmes said. “The foundation provides scholarships for kids. It may be alternative education, but we encourage education so they can make better choices.”
The game of football likes to hold onto its stars, though, and that puts Holmes back in the spotlight now and then. He was honored as one of 12 legends at the Big 12 championship game at Arrowhead Stadium last month as the representative from Texas.
And Wednesday, he became the latest Legends of the Sun Bowl inductee in El Paso, Texas, for making his mark as a participant in the bowl game. Holmes was named the game’s MVP in 1994 after a 35-31 win over North Carolina. Past honorees include Tony Dorsett, Johnny Majors, Derrick Thomas and Pat Tillman.
“He was a pretty unanimous choice,” said Bernie Olivas, Sun Bowl director.
The Chiefs, too, plan to formally honor Holmes sometime next season, now that he has retired. The former NFL touchdown leader holds nine Chiefs career records and is still the team’s all-time leader in rushing yards (6,070), rushing touchdowns (76) and total touchdowns (83).
“It was Kansas City that gave me the opportunity,” Holmes said. “I want people to know there’s still a connection with Kansas City and that we continue to give back and do public service.”
When he’s not working, Holmes is still working out — just not the way he used to. Gone are the runs up and down the hills near the Chiefs’ training facility the day after a game, as well as the heavy squats. Holmes mixes up his routine using what he calls “alternative ways of training” that include aquatics — something he did while rehabbing injuries.
One thing Holmes does not do is play football with his three sons and two daughters.
“I don’t even touch the football with them. It’s not hard, because it takes the pressure off them,” he said. “It’s up to them what direction they go in. If they don’t choose sports, we’ll get them training in something else.”
His boys already have chosen sports, though.
Fifteen-year-old son DeAndre, a freshman running back, played last fall in the semifinals of the Texas high school football championship for Clark High School. Jekovan, Holmes’ 11-year-old, plays quarterback, and 6-year-old Corion is into flag football.
“They get a lot of pressure from others. My older son worked out with me one time, and he didn’t come back — he said, ‘I think I’ll train on my own,’ ” Holmes said with a laugh. “But at some point, I will train him.”
So Holmes, 35, has no regrets leaving the field — he has a full life these days. And he still is using what he calls life’s lessons from the gridiron.
“Despite obstacles,” he said, “you can persevere.” In San Antonio, Holmes is the high Priest of kids - Kansas City Star