It looked like a done deal.
Santonio Holmes was expected to go professional following the Buckeyes' bowl game if he had an outstanding season in 2004. Sure, he said the right things and mouthed the right words, but Holmes' reputation preceded him. Even as a freshman, news emerged from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center through comments of coaches and players of a phenomenal wideout who had yet to see the field. The flames of rumor were further fueled when coaches admitted they considered pulling off Holmes' redshirt for the national championship contest against Miami.
Was this kid that good? Was he good enough that the coaches would burn an entire season for just four quarters?
Holmes' answer to that question started with Indiana and finished with Kansas State as a redshirt freshman in 2003. When Drew Carter went down with a second season-ending knee injury, the question was - who would step up? Who would carry the load? Holmes casually sauntered to the plate and smashed a home run over the centerfield fences with a six catch, 153 yard, and two-touchdown performance. Over the next five games he added to those eye-popping numbers and finished the six game stretch that included Michigan and the Fiesta Bowl with 517 yards, 29 catches, and 7 touchdowns.
He picked up where he left off when fall practice started in 2004. Every ball thrown his direction was snagged out of the air like some unfortunate insect flying around in an aquarium full of bullfrogs. Zwick, Smith, and Boeckman - all of the quarterbacks looked like gold when Holmes was going deep for the football.
Despite repeated questions from the media and fans, Holmes consistently maintained he was not considering going professional. This was a decision that would be too hasty to make he maintained. He said he needed to take matters one day at a time, play hard, and let the rest take care of itself.
However, this afternoon Holmes admitted those thoughts were running through his head.
"I thought I was (going pro) at the beginning of the season, but as the course of the season went on I said I wasn't really prepared to take that next step," Holmes said. "So, I kind of sat back and thought over talking to my parents and I told them, 'This season is going to be dedicated to my team.'"
From his perspective, why wouldn't Holmes have considered the NFL?
Against Cincinnati and Marshall he cut through the defense like a hot knife does a stick of butter. With the Bearcats still showing enough fight to try and claw their way back into the football game, Holmes teamed up with his roommate, Troy Smith, for a 23-yard score with just less than six minutes remaining. He finished the day with 91 yards on just four catches for an average of nearly 23 yards per reception. Marshall was next on the chopping block, and the French nobility during their 18th century revolution probably had less fear of the guillotine than the Herd secondary did of Holmes by the end of the afternoon. The only thing that stopped Holmes from a possible 300-yard day was the onset of cramps. He finished the day with 224 yards on 10 catches with two touchdowns after racking up some 200 by halftime.
It was then that he hit the dry spell. Defenses recognized Santonio Holmes could in fact almost single handedly defeat them if they did not scheme to stop him. They began to focus their energies on limiting his ability to touch the football, and the effort paid off. Aside from his 10 catch, 99 yards receiving and 63 yard punt return for a score against Northwestern, Holmes has had only 258 yards and 2 touchdowns since the second game of the season.
Holmes finds too much attention to be a bad thing when it comes to defenses. Looking for relief, he believes it is not spelled R-O-L-A-I-D-S but rather D-E-P-T-H in 2005 and is already excited about returning next year when secondaries will have their hands full.
"It's going to be very, very, very exciting to watch all of us since (Ted Ginn, Jr.) has learned the system now," Holmes said. "Next year is going to be a big year because now they don't have only one guy to watch out for. Coming back next year, they're going to have me, they're going to have Ted, they're going to have Albert who I think is going to a good player to step up for us next year, and Roy. With us four in the game it's going to be very tough (on defenses)."
But it's not just a matter of his statistics not being all world that caused Holmes to reconsider turning professional.
Among other concerns for Holmes were such matters as, "the little injuries I was getting this season (and) the frustration I was having dealing with our offensive problems and thinking that we could have done more and better than what we have done over the season…and a lot of things in general pertaining to the team."
Holmes wants to return to show just what he can do when he is physically and mentally prepared for the grind of a full season, and he also wants to get his degree.
"I'm on track to graduate. Like I said before, I've been talking to my parents about staying another year, and they were telling me, 'Make sure you are making the right decision for yourself. It's not about what is going to happen. Without football there is a degree behind you, and you need something you can fall back on."
That's sagacious advice from his mother - who knows what it is to work without a college degree and see doors closed to her but open to others. However, do not get the impression his mother is pushing him to stay. At the end of the day, this is his decision and his alone.
"My parents don't really want any say so in my decisions on what I do," said Holmes. "I feel like I want them to be part of it. I just need someone I can talk to that is going to give me both negative and positive feedback, and there is no better person to do that than your parents."
Indeed - so long as a parent has their child's ultimate best interest at heart instead of trying to relive their youth through them, then there are few who could question their love. Abraham Lincoln once said, "All I am and ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother," and perhaps - just perhaps Santonio Holmes will one day say the same.
For now though, fans, coaches, and his teammates can rest easy because he is going to be a Buckeye for at least one more year.