–By Jessica Davis, Contributor to the Tallahassee Quarterback Club
He’s the definition of a hometown hero. He was nicknamed “The Hitman” in high school and the name carried on with him through college and eventually into the pros. The 6’2, 242 pound linebacker was the last person you wanted coming at you. He’s Coach Earl Holmes.
Although you may not have known that the ‘Hitman’ himself has a big soft spot for mom.
“I hate to say it, but I really am. I am definitely a momma’s boy,” says the coach.
Coach Holmes may seem like the tough guy on and off the field, but he’s knows when and how to reach out a shoulder to lean on. Last year, Holmes reached out to the father of Trayvon Martin and invited him to be one of the team’s captains for a game, including being the coin tosser. If you didn’t know, Mr. Martin used to coach a couple of the FAMU players when they were still in high school.
“I invited him because we were discussing the 3 P’s… Prayer, physicality, and perseverance…and that’s what Martin was talking about-perseverance, “says Holmes, “Getting through the hard times and not giving up.”
Martin and Holmes still keep in touch to this day.
Often times young football players will aspire themselves to play college football, and later on-if they work hard enough, the NFL. Football becomes a part of their life, the definition of who they are. Although Holmes played for FAMU and went on to have a successful NFL career-the coach says he never let the words ‘football player’ define him.
“I’ve never let my job make me, I made it,” says Holmes.
The NFL seems like a dream come true for players, but it’s nothing like the college football experience. You play, practice, hangout with your fellow players for four years and then graduate together. The NFL brings a different story. In the NFL, the player sitting next to you in the locker room may not be there the next game if he makes a couple more mistakes.
“It’s the hardest thing you have to learn as a football player. And you learn it the hard way…” Coach continues, “It’s a business… They don’t pay you to play the games. They pay you to win the games.”
There’s a reason why coaches will sometimes joke the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long.’
After Holmes retired from the NFL, he became the football coach he always wanted to be. He became the football coach for the school he used to play for. He became the head coach of a historic college right in the area where he spent his childhood. Except Holmes tells me he isn’t just focused on getting FAMU to win more games.
“I want to have the highest graduation rate in college football…I’m happy when guys sack the quarterback or get a touchdown but I love when I get to shake those guys’ hands when they walk off the stage [during graduation].”
Contrary to what you may think, Earl Jr. the only son of the Hitman, won’t be playing football anytime soon. It looks like Earl Jr. may be picking up a different sport instead.
“He’s in the 9th grade, but right now I think his love is baseball and not football. Probably because he doesn’t have to run as much,” smiles Holmes.
Whether or not Earl Jr. decides to follow in his father’s footsteps to try to leave his own legacy, he can rest assured knowing that his father has already left one. You don’t always combine the words ‘head coach’ and ‘hitman’ together, but Coach Holmes definitely pulls it off, and pulls it off well.