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83-Steelers-43
04-30-2006, 08:36 AM
Closeup: The No. 1 pick, Santonio Holmes
Once left with the important responsibility of taking care of his younger brothers, Santonio Holmes believes he can handle taking over the role that once belonged to Randle El
Sunday, April 30, 2006

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Patricia Brown was a single parent who raised four boys, and her oldest son, Santonio Holmes, had to play many roles.

"There wasn't anybody but me and him," Brown said. "I left for work at 4 or 5 in the morning, so he had to be big brother, mommy and daddy all at once."

Brown has four kids, ages 21 to 7, and she relied on her oldest son to take care of things at home while she worked as a medical assistant. And Holmes, the Steelers' No. 1 pick in the NFL draft yesterday, obliged, with nary a complaint.

He played three sports in high school -- football, basketball and track -- and still managed to help his mom with his brothers, Kenneth (19), Devontae (14) and Javen (7). With so much responsibility thrown at him, Holmes learned to multitask, an ability he took with him to Ohio State, where he became a multitalented wide receiver/return specialist with the Buckeyes.

"It was very hard," Holmes said. "My mom would get up at 3 in the morning and have to go to work and she left me with the responsibility of getting up at 5:30, getting my brothers dressed and getting them ready for school. When they came home, I had to make sure they had something to eat because she wouldn't get home till 5 or 6 o'clock."

And he never complained.

"He never grumbled, never once," Brown said. "If he did, he never let on. I always gave him time to do things, whether it was talk on the phone or do his homework, but everything would always be done."

Now it is Brown's turn to help her son.

Holmes is a single parent, too, with two sons -- Santonio III (4) and Nicori (23 months) -- who live with his mom in Belle Glade, Fla. He also has a daughter, Shaniya (2 months), who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Holmes' experience growing up has taught him how to handle his new family, handle everything that surrounds him. That includes being selected with the 25th overall pick by the Steelers -- the first wide receiver selected in the draft.

"I use it as motivation right now," Holmes said. "I don't say I shouldn't have done this or I shouldn't have done that or that I have regrets. I want my kids to grow up like me and my brothers did. I'm able to make a big difference in their lives."

That seems to be a catchword for just about everything that has happened to Holmes.

He made a difference in high school, where he was a three-year starter and helped lead Glades Central High School to the state title as a sophomore and junior. As a senior, he had 10 touchdowns on 33 receptions, averaging 29.3 yards per catch, when his high school was 12-1.

And he made a difference at Ohio State, where he was a two-year starter and a first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection as a junior in 2005. He led the Buckeyes with 53 catches, 997 yards and 11 touchdowns, third most in a season in school history. What's more, 19 of his catches were for 20 yards or longer.

"He was always going to outwork everybody to get what he wanted," said Willie Bueno, who was the head coach when Holmes played at Glades Central. "He was one of those first-to-practice, last-to-leave kids."

The Steelers started thinking about making a deal to move up and take Holmes once the Philadelphia Eagles, at No. 14, passed on a wide receiver and drafted defensive tackle Brodrick Buntley of Florida State. And once he was still available when the San Diego Chargers drafted a cornerback (Antonio Cromartie) with the 19th pick, the Steelers tried to make a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs to move up to No. 20.

But the Chiefs weren't interested in making the deal, nor were the San Francisco 49ers with the 22nd pick. But the Steelers found a willing trade partner with the New York Giants at No. 25, and they shipped a third- and fourth-round pick to the Giants to swap draft spots in the first round.

Holmes was the only player the Steelers were going to trade up to acquire in the first round, and they got him.

"We really had our eyes on him," director of football operations Kevin Colbert said. "He was someone that we talked about. If he was going to be available, then we'll go get him."

The Steelers liked Holmes' speed (4.38) and his ability to stretch the field with deep routes, but they also liked that he possessed another dimension: He was an elusive punt returner at Ohio State, averaging 10.1 yards per return for three seasons with the Buckeyes. Holmes averaged a career-high 12.8 yards on 11 returns in 2005.

That made him even more attractive to the Steelers after the loss of Antwaan Randle El -- the only player in the NFL to return two punts for touchdowns in 2005 -- in free agency.

"I'm ready for it ... I've been looking forward to it," said Holmes, whose is the cousin of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor. "I couldn't be at a better spot right now than to fill in and be able to return kicks and be a wide receiver for those guys."

Holmes said he has been a Steelers fan since 1995 because he admires "the things they accomplish together as a team, as a family." His favorite receiver and the player to whom he most compares himself is Marvin Harrison of the Indianapolis Colts because "he really gets the job done and that's the same thing I do when I'm on the field."

To be sure, Holmes was a productive receiver with the Buckeyes. Last year, he caught 10 passes for 224 yards and touchdowns of 80 and 47 yards against Marshall -- the second-most productive day by an Ohio State receiver in school history. The only more productive performance was by former Buckeyes receiver Terry Glenn in a 1995 game against Pitt (253 yards).

Holmes, though, did the same thing in high school, where he also helped the track team to a state title as a junior and started for the basketball team that was a Florida state runner-up as a senior.

"He definitely was a blessed kid," Bueno said. "Not only that, he was a great student in school. Even when he came out as a freshman, he was a leader. He had a great work ethic and he was committed that he was going to use football to get to school. He did all the right things asked of a player."

And a big brother, mom and dad.

blackvelvet
04-30-2006, 10:01 AM
it's only been a day, but i'm starting to like this kid. i i think he'll make a godd addition to the Steelers