Holmes ready for an encore Football: Confident but not cocky, the Ravens' rookie running back believes his impressive debut wasn't a fluke.

October 09, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Roll the tape, please.

Ravens running back Priest Holmes cuts right, darts left and then he's gone. Fifteen yards. Holmes takes a pitch right, accelerates, breaks one tackle, does a 360-degree turn and then gains 47 yards.

Holmes starts out running a counter trey right, hangs on offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden's rear end, reads guard Wally Williams' block and then goes untouched for a 15-yard touchdown, all part of a 173-yard performance against the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks ago.

Now fast forward to reality.

Holmes is making the second start of his career Sunday against the Tennessee Oilers, and has to prove his debut against the Bengals was not a one-game fluke. The Washington Redskins' Timmy Smith had 204 yards rushing on 22 carries in his starting debut in Super Bowl XXII, and he was virtually never heard from again.

"I haven't thought about that, but I really don't think it's going to happen," said Holmes, 5 feet 10 and 205 pounds. "If I keep watching film, keep making the preparations, stay within my landmarks of the offense and let the offensive line do 90 percent of the work, then it will all come together.

"It's a big offensive line, and I'm confident in their ability and that it will help us to have even a bigger game."

Running backs assistant coach Earnest Byner agrees.

"It's a stigma that's out there about being a one-game flash," said Byner. "But for me to talk with Priest about it would be inappropriate because I know him. I know how he prepares, I know his strengths. As he plays, he is going to get better because he is going to get more confident."

Confidence is something that Holmes has never lacked. He is a born-again Christian who became saved shortly after he was 10 years old.

And this isn't a shallow faith.

He grew up in a Christian home near San Antonio. Holmes said he was taught right from wrong and how to behave, but made the decision to become a born-again Christian at a spiritual revival.

"I always did what I was told until I was about 10, but then I started going through this transformation where I had to make a decision for myself," said Holmes. "I always thought there was something else that happened or was involved when you accepted Jesus Christ, but it's just a matter of claiming him as your salvation, that he died on the cross and that you believe in him.

"Through the years in your walk, you go up and down and it depends on if you're feeding yourself. I'm glad my parents instilled this in me when I was young. I'm a man of God. I'll look you in the eye and you will know that I will rise to all of life's demands."

Holmes has risen from an obscure rookie free agent with the Ravens playing behind Byner, Bam Morris, Jay Graham and Errict Rhett to the prime time.

The Ravens' running game had become stagnant during the first three games, but Holmes, new starting quarterback Eric Zeier and an unpredictable offense added some life.

Ever since the game against the Bengals, Holmes has been in demand.

But don't expect his personality to change.

He studies a form of martial arts that he says teaches him flexibility as well as to respect all life forms. Holmes is extremely .. humble and very quiet.

In the past three weeks, two second-year Ravens players have been arrested for drunken driving. That's not likely to happen to Holmes.

"He has a spiritual and mental calmness," said Byner. "A lot of players need to see and understand that if you have balance, you can achieve great things in your life."

The Ravens have always liked Holmes, back to his days when he was a University of Texas running back.

But in 1995, he tore an anterior cruciate ligament that sidelined him for the entire season. Then he lost his running back spot to a guy named Ricky Williams, which dropped his stock in the draft.

But Holmes, who idolized Tony Dorsett when he was younger, never gave up.

Byner noticed the talent last season when Holmes was on the scout team and Byner was still on the active roster.

"He was a guy who didn't lose his balance easy," said Byner. "He didn't get tired. You had to push him off the practice field. You could see the mentality then."

Holmes became even stronger during the off-season after spending countless hours in the weight room.

By the end of training camp in July, he was starting to turn a few heads in preseason games.

The Ravens wanted gradually to work him into the starting lineup as a third-down specialist, but the timetable was accelerated.

"He has speed and balance, but the biggest thing is that he will ask questions, perceive it, then go out and do it," said Byner. "And then he has the gift, which is being able to give one leg up on a run, then take it away with a move. He runs much bigger than his actual appearance. He has a lot of assets that could keep him around for quite a while."

Sun staff selections

Week 6

Oilers at Ravens (-3 1/2 )

John Eisenberg - Ravens

Gary Lambrecht - Ravens

Mike Preston - Ravens

Ken Rosenthal - Ravens

Vito Stellino - Ravens

Bills (-2 1/2 ) at Colts

John Eisenberg - Bills

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