Known affectionately by family and FAMU fans as “The Hitman,” Holmes played for the Rattlers from 1992 to 1995, finishing as the school’s all-time leader in tackles. Holmes captured NCAA Division I-AA and Black College All-American honors in 1994 and 1995, and was selected as the Sheridan Broadcasting Network College Defensive Player of the Year as well as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1995.

A three-time first team All-MEAC selections, Holmes was a devastating tackler while at Florida A&M, completing his career with 509 total tackles, 309 solo takedowns and 200 assisted tackles – all Rattler career records. Holmes also finished his playing days at FAMU with eight career interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, with 38 tackles for loss, 6.5 quarterback sacks, 32 pass break-ups and a trio of fumble recoveries. His 1995 senior season totals shattered all existing school marks for season solo tackles (103) and total tackles (171).

Following his collegiate career, Holmes was drafted in the fourth round of the 1996 National Football League drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He played 10 seasons in the NFL at linebacker, six with Pittsburgh (1996-2001), one season with the Cleveland Browns (2002) and three with the Detroit Lions (2003-05) before retiring. A solid, run-stopping middle linebacker in the NFL, Holmes totaled 958 career tackles (685 solos), with 89 tackles for loss, 29 pass deflections and five recovered fumbles in 10 seasons.

In 2009, he returned to Florida A&M to serve on the coaching staff of Joe Taylor, eventually rising to defensive coordinator in 2012. Just before the end of the season, Taylor retired, and Holmes was named as interim head coach.[2] On January 11, 2013 he was officially named the head coach and interim tag was removed.

A member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Holmes was inducted into the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.  He and his wife Tiffany reside in Tallahassee are the proud parents of one son, Earl Jr.