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Former Chiefs RB Priest Holmes finds success after football
Priest Holmes went from an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens to one of the best running backs in the league with the Kansas City Chiefs. (Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Chiefs RB Priest Holmes finds success after football

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BVM) – In the early 2000s, Priest Holmes was one of the most dominant running backs in the NFL. At the height of his career, the Texas product was a league record-setter with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Unfortunately, injuries derailed what could have been an even more productive and legendary career. But still, Holmes left his mark as one of the most talented backs to play in his era.

Holmes’ early life

Holmes was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas and raised in San Antonio by his mother and his stepfather who was an aircraft technician at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. 

He would go on to attend John Marshall High School where his name first became known. As a senior, Holmes led his team to a state runner-up finish as he ran for over 2,000 yards. The running back finished his John Marshall career with 4,080 rushing yards.

Priest Holmes Texas Longhorns Kansas City Chiefs
Priest Holmes stayed in state to play college football with the Texas Longhorns. (Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports)

Holmes’ college career

The talented running back would stay home for college, attending the University of Texas from 1992-1996. The start to his Longhorns’ career was a slow one, as he played in seven games each between his freshman and sophomore seasons, earning just 73 carries for 428 yards in his first two years.

However, Holmes would finally break through in his junior season, rushing for 524 yards and five touchdowns. His best performance came on the biggest stage, as the future NFL star ran for 161 yards and four touchdowns as the MVP of the Sun Bowl.

Just as things were looking up for Holmes, he took a step back, missing the entire 1995 season with a torn ACL. He would return for the Longhorns in 1996, but the injury opened the door for young Ricky Williams who had burst onto the scene the year prior and maintained the starting job as a sophomore.

Holmes still found his way onto the field for Texas as he scored 13 touchdowns in his senior year. His best performance came in the inaugural Big 12 championship game as Holmes ran for 120 yards and three touchdowns in the Longhorns’ upset of Nebraska.

However, modest rushing totals, a prior knee injury and being unseated as Texas’ top running back hurt his draft case coming out of college.

Holmes’ Baltimore Ravens days

After going undrafted in 1997, Holmes joined the Baltimore Ravens where he began his career as a fourth-string running back. He saw action in seven games his rookie year, primarily on special teams.

However, Holmes emerged with a surprising season in 1998. Despite starting the campaign as the Ravens’ third-string back, he would take over as a starter early in the season, rushing for over 1,000 yards while adding an additional 260 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.

While he rushed for over 500 yards in 1999, a knee injury derailed most of Holmes’ season, as he carried the ball just 89 times in nine games. Better health would allow Holmes to play a full season in 2000, but just like in college, he was passed over as the starter by rookie Jamal Lewis. Still, Holmes helped contribute to a team that went on to win Super Bowl XXXV.

Holmes’ stardom with the Chiefs

After making a little over one million dollars in his first four NFL seasons combined, Holmes moved on from Baltimore to join the Kansas City Chiefs on a five-year, $8.4 million deal. What he did over the ensuing years made him worth every penny.

Priest Holmes Kansas City Chiefs NFL
Priest Holmes’ career took off in the early 2000s as he became one of the best backs in the league with the Kansas City Chiefs. (Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

In 2001, Holmes led the league with 1,555 rushing yards and was the only undrafted running back to ever do so until Arian Foster also accomplished the feat in 2010. He also got much more involved in the passing game with 642 yards receiving and totaled 10 touchdowns on the year.

Following his first Pro Bowl season, Holmes came back even more dominant in 2002 with a career-high 1,615 rushing yards and a league-high 21 rushing touchdowns. For the second straight season, the 5-foot-9 back totaled over 2,100 yards from scrimmage as the AP Offensive Player of the Year. This despite missing the final two games of the season with a hip injury. 

However, it’s the 2003 season that will likely go down as the peak of Holmes’ terrific career. Running for 1,420 yards, Holmes scored a then league-record 27 touchdowns – a mark soon broken by Shaun Alexander and later LaDainian Tomlinson – joining Emmitt Smith as the only running backs to score 20 or more touchdowns in consecutive seasons. 

The impressive play from guys like Holmes, Tony Gonzalez, Trent Green and Dante Hall led the Chiefs to a surprising 13-3 season under head coach Dick Vermeil. However, the team would unfortunately fall earlier than expected in the Divisional Round against a potent Colts offense led by Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison.

Holmes started out on a torrid pace again in 2004, rushing for 892 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first eight games, averaging 111.5 yards per contest. 

However, he would miss the second half of the season due to a knee injury.

Things went from bad to worse from there. In an October 2005 game against the Chargers, Holmes took a hard hit from linebacker Shawne Merriman that injured his spinal cord. He would miss the final nine games of 2005 and all of 2006 due to the injury.

Again, Holmes had his starting job taken away by Larry Johnson who ran for over 1,700 yards as a Pro Bowl running back in both 2005 and 2006. Holmes did complete his comeback from injury, finally seeing action again for the Chiefs in 2007. Rushing for just 137 yards on 46 carries, it was clear Holmes wasn’t the same player.

Reinjuring his neck in a mid-November game against the Colts, Holmes decided to retire days later on Nov. 21, 2007. Despite a difficult way to end his career, the running back left quite a mark on an historic franchise, finishing as the Chiefs’ leader in career rushing yards – since broken by Jamaal Charles – as well as rushing touchdowns (76) and total touchdowns (83).

He totaled over 8,000 rushing yards and 86 rushing touchdowns in his career with three Pro Bowl nods and three All-Pro honors, going from undrafted to one of the league’s brightest stars in a matter of years.

Holmes’ personal life, earnings and achievements

Since retirement, Holmes has gone back home to live in San Antonio. Holmes made upward of $50 million across his decade-long NFL career and has an estimated net worth of $15 million

The Chiefs legend also has two daughters and three sons. Holmes’ kids have followed in his footsteps, with middle son Jekovan playing college football at Texas Lutheran University, and youngest son Corion playing at Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Priest Holmes Kansas City Chiefs NFL
Priest Holmes’ brilliant football career has been honored by many since his retirement. (Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports)

The three-time Pro Bowler and three-time first team All-Pro continues to have his brilliant football career recognized. While he still awaits a possible nod to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, since retirement, Holmes has been inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame, the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame, the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Texas Hall of Honor.

Holmes’ philanthropic efforts

In 2005 while he was still playing for the Chiefs, the running back founded the Priest Holmes Foundation, which aims to enhance the lives of children in the community by promoting education through different programs and scholarships.

While turning into one of San Antonio’s top philanthropists, Holmes has become a speaker for employees, students, professionals and companies, sharing his story, insights and messages to help inspire and empower others.

In addition, the 48 year old also serves as vice president of the NFLPA Former Players Chapter of San Antonio/Austin, Texas. He also is on the NFLPA Former Players Board of Directors.

Holmes’ post-football life

Of course, Holmes has never strayed too far away from the Chiefs’ organization either. At last January’s Wild Card contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Holmes was invited back to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium to serve as the team’s drum honoree.

Ultimately, injuries – some of which he still deals with today – may have derailed the running back’s tremendous career. Yet, Holmes left his mark not only on the Chiefs, but the NFL as a whole. It may only be a matter of time before his name is officially called for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But for now, Holmes will continue to inspire through his work off the field, just as he did so many times through his playing career years ago.

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