Since the mid 1980’s the Kansas City Chiefs have had a long line of good-to-great running backs. Starting in 1987 with Christian Okoye, through Marcus Allen through to Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles the Kansas City running game has been in good hands. And right in the middle of this impressive run, the Chiefs were led by Priest Holmes, who for many of those seasons, was led to the holes he rushed through by fullback Tony Richardson. Let’s take a few minutes and look at the way the Chiefs used these 2 men to carry the team to some success in the early 2000s. We will also look at the role that faith in God has played for each of them in their careers and even today after they have hung up the cleats.
Priest Holmes played college football at the University of Texas where he played in 7 games as a freshman. He started a couple games as a sophomore before excelling as a Junior, leading the Longhorns to a win in the Sun Bowl rushing for 161 yards and 4 touchdowns. An injury though would cost him his starting job as future Heisman Winner Ricky Williams took over. He was actually third string in his senior year and was not drafted into the NFL. He signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Ravens and led the team in rushing in 1998. Check out this article from 1998 as Holmes began to catch the attention of the NFL. In the article, Holmes also shares about the importance of God in his life. He says “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. 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.”
He encountered some of those ups and downs in Baltimore. He battled injuries in 1999 as he was replaced by Jamal Lewis as the starting running back for the Ravens as they won the Super Bowl in the 2000 season. Holmes was a free agent at this point and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated called him a meteorite. He arrived quietly and made a sudden and large impact. In his third game with the Chiefs, he rushed for over 140 yards and 2 touchdowns. That was the start of a run where Holmes would have 3 straight seasons of 1400+ yards, score more that 50 touchdowns combined and be names as both a Pro Bowler and and a First Team All-Pro. Ultimately, injuries would end Holmes’ career early but in his time with the Chiefs, he became their all-time leader in yards, rushing TDs and combined TDs. Jamaal Charles passed the yardage mark a couple seasons ago, but the touchdown records still stand.
These days, Holmes is still able to use the platform of football to share his faith and motivations with others. He has started the Priest Holmes foundation to help students achieve education goals through programs and scholarships. Holmes was added to the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2014.
He also remembers a conversation that he had with his teammate and the other part of today’s post Tony Richardson
In that 2001 season, after a couple of tough first games to the season, Richardson said to Holmes “‘I know I was running the ball last year, but I’d rather be your fullback. I’m going to do everything to make you successful.’” You see Tony Richardson had been the Chiefs feature back the year before, leading the team with almost 700 rushing yards on 147 carries. He would carry the ball 66 times in 2001 and never more than 25 in a season after that for the rest of his career as he transformed into an elite blocking fullback.
Tony Richardson also went undrafted after his college career. He played at Auburn where he was a starter for 3 seasons. He was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys and was on their practice squad in 1994. There he worked with Emmitt Smith and Daryl Johnson, learning the RB position at the NFL level. The next season he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and played in 14 games with them. He would play at least 13 games each season with the Chiefs for the next decade, blocking for Priest Holmes and also Larry Johnson.
He played in 2 Pro-Bowls along the way. When he left Kansas City, he spent 2 seasons in Minnesota leading the way for Adrian Peterson and being named to another Pro Bowl in 2007. He moved on to the New York Jets, and retired from the NFL after the 2010 season. He was name to the 2000s All-Decade team and this season, he was added to the Chiefs Hall of Fame. As you can read in this article from The Goal, Richardson’s faith is important to him and gives him purpose for his life. He says “People had always thought I was an honorable man. They thought I had it all together, and, for a while, I did too. I went to church and I knew the Word – but I wasn’t living it. And because I wasn’t living it, I felt an emptiness inside. Once I gave everything to the Lord, I discovered my purpose in life is to share what God has done for me, and to bring people to Christ. My purpose is to share with people that Jesus died and rose again for them. As a single and celibate Christian athlete, I have many opportunities to share with people how wonderful the journey of faith is.”
Here are my takeaways from today’s stories:
1- I Will Rise – Life has a lot of ways of knocking us down. It can be exhausting and painful to try and work through the things that come against us. But in Christ, there is hope. Hope that He can sustain us through the hard things. Hope that can turn bad into good. Hope that can give us strength to face the new day, knowing that we are not alone in this battle and that we will be victorious if we stick with God’s plan. I really appreciate the boldness of this thought. Priest Holmes shared it in one of the articles that I read. He said “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.” God gives us that kind of confidence because He proves himself to be faithful at all times. We may get hurt and knocked down but He is there, we may get betrayed and abandoned by others, but never by Him. We may feel week, but in His strength, we can stand again. Rise up and face whatever comes your way WITH Him! He is in the battle with you and will work things out for your good and for His glory.
2- Whatever it takes – Tony Richardson had the job of starting running back and Priest Holmes came in to compete for it. Richardson’s response? I want to help you and “I’m going to do everything to make you successful.” What changes is God leading you to make to help others? Are you willing to do it, even if it means a lesser role for you or a different role for you? Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to pay the price for our sins. He took it on so we could be receive the reward of Salvation and eternity with God. What an example for us to follow. Pride can be such an obstacle to overcome. But God calls us to serve others, to be humble and put others ahead of ourselves. Challenge received.