Thursday Tribute

Thursday Tribute: Priest Holmes

How taking a chance at better opportunity ignited one of the greatest running back stretches of all time.

Winning a Lombardi trophy would bring a lot of returning players back. That wasn’t the case for running back Priest Holmes, who took an opportunity over safety.

Holmes’ last season with the Baltimore Ravens saw him serve second-string to Jamal Lewis in route to their title. Before that season, he worked his way to a significant role with the Ravens.

After going undrafted, Holmes signed and spent his rookie season limited with no offensive snaps. The next season, Holmes battled and eventually won the starting position on his way to a 1,000 yard rushing season.

As a first-year starter and second-year player that yardage along with seven touchdowns showed the Chiefs potential. Going into the 1999 season, Holmes was the expected starter, but injuries sidelined him as he only started four games, according to Pro Football Reference.

That next season Holmes backed up Lewis on their way to a Super Bowl title. With the limited role, Holmes had 803 total scrimmage yards and two touchdowns.

Then he signed to join the Chiefs, which was a considerable drop off in production. The Chiefs finished their previous season at 7-9, missed the playoffs, and just hired new head coach Dick Vermeil.

As he arrived in Kansas City, Holmes earned and secured the starting role going into the 2001 season. Then the Chiefs saw arguably the greatest three-year stretch from a running back that anyone has seen.

Holmes started and played every game in 2001, and Holmes led the league in rushing with 1,555 yards, according to Pro Football Reference. Add in 62 catches with 614 yards and Holmes put up ten touchdowns along with a 2,000 scrimmage yard season.

The next season saw improvements for Holmes and the team. After finishing just 6-10, the Chiefs went back to a run-heavy offense, which led to an incredible season on the ground.

Holmes toppled 24 total touchdowns along with 2,287 total yards, marking another extraordinary season. This earned him a spot on the First-Team All-Pro squad for the second consecutive year.

Holmes was able to put up those impressive numbers even after only playing 14 games. Despite the recognization, the team missed the postseason again finishing at 8-8. What was it going to take for the Chiefs to get to that next level?

Holmes then took his game to another level. The then 30-year-old rushed for 27 touchdowns with over 2,100 scrimmage yards. The team also improved, as they finished 13-3 and won the AFC West.

Despite a great regular season, they would be bounced by the Indianapolis Colts, led by Peyton Manning. Holmes had two touchdowns and 208 total yards, but it wasn’t enough in the 38-31 defeat.

But let’s emphasize these last three seasons for Holmes: 6,566 total yards with 61 touchdowns. That is a pretty incredible stretch, but could prove to be taxing on the body as well.

The next season saw Holmes play just half of the season due to knee injury, according to ESPN. Even with missing eight games, Holmes still got to over 1,000 scrimmage yards and 15 touchdowns, so there were certainly signs of optimism going into the 2005 season.

After missing the playoffs, Holmes came back but production was starting to dip. But his season was cut short, after a devastating hit by San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman that left Holmes with a spinal injury.

Over the course of that three-year stretch, Holmes totaled 1,166 touches. That unbelievable workload would lead pretty much any running back to an injury.

Holmes tried to comeback in the 2007 season after taking the year off, but it didn’t last long. Holmes would retire and leave his playing days behind him during that season.

Rather than staying comfortable with a role on a successful team, Holmes took a chance on playing and it paid off. Holmes utilized an amazing offensive line headlined by Hall-of-Famer Will Shields to break franchise records.

Holmes finished his career as the franchise leader in rushing touchdowns and rushing yards. The rushing yards record would be overtaken by running back Jamaal Charles.

The Chiefs honored Holmes and put him in their Ring of Honor in 2014. The legacy of Holmes and that 2003 Chiefs team lives on through their incredible rushing offense.

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