Bucknuts Mag Excerpts: Sticking Around

Many people thought originally that wide receiver Santonio Holmes would give serious thought to leaving Ohio State for the NFL after last season. However, the junior receiver decided to return for at least one more year. In this week's version of Bucknuts Magazine Excerpts, we have a story that printed back in the March 2005 issue on Holmes's return and why the decision was made.

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In each issue of Bucknuts The Magazine, we have in-depth features on Ohio State football players, coaches and prospects. We also have analysis pieces on the Buckeyes as well as their opponents, the Big Ten and college football world in general. Plus, we have features on OSU athletes in a variety of sports, including men's and women's basketball, hockey, wrestling, baseball and other sports.

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This week's excerpt is from March 2005 issue, which was our 2005 Recruiting Spectacular. This is an article on wide receiver Santonio Holmes and his decision to return for his senior season:

Headline: Sticking Around

By Charles Babb

When Ohio State coaches nearly pulled the redshirt from Santonio Holmes just to play in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, it was a harbinger of things to come.

Holmes, a native of Belle Glade, Fla., was not as highly considered as fellow Floridian wideouts Chris Davis, Dishon Platt, and Ryan Moore when he graduated from high school in 2002. More coaches should have noticed dominating performances such as the annual Florida Outback Steakhouse All Star Game, during which Holmes grabbed five passes for a touchdown, 121 yards, and the MVP trophy. When it came time to strap on the pads and play, he not only cooked the competition, he left scorched defensive backs in his wake.

He arrived on campus in Columbus of 2002 to face a depth chart deeper than Bill Gates' pocketbook. Thoughts of playing early died quickly with Chris Gamble, Michael Jenkins, Chris Vance and Drew Carter all ahead of him in the pecking order. Holmes took it in stride, redshirted, worked to improve his game, and waited for his chance to shine.

Putting on a show during the 2003 spring game with over 200 all-purpose yards, Holmes curiously struggled to find his stride once the season commenced. He had talent – of that there was no doubt – but an unfortunate fumble returning a punt against N.C. State nearly cost the Buckeyes the game. Further, he seemed to vanish for long stretches of time when on the field, and defensive coverages swallowed him whole. Instead of flashing on the scene like a bolt of lightning, spectators heard only the reverberating thunder of his impact in the spring. His playing time waned, then dwindled to near nothingness.

"At the beginning of the season, I didn't get as much playing time because Drew and Mike, those were two really good receivers in front of me," Holmes remembers. "I learned from those guys, and when I got the opportunity, I took advantage of it."

Did he ever.

The offensively-ailing Buckeyes were participating in their annual tune-up against Indiana, and Carter, just realizing his potential, was making a case for being a first-round draft choice with his explosive 4.2 speed, 6-4 frame, and soft hands. Then on a routine pass play, he and the defensive back went down in a tangle of limbs. The defensive back popped right back up, but Carter was in agony. The news couldn't have been worse for Carter or the team – he had another ACL tear and would be out for the remainder of the season.

Holmes stepped to the plate. In less than four quarters, he racked up 153 yards on six receptions and scored two touchdowns, and had it not been for a fumble as he prepared to cross the goal line, he would have added a third score. The Hoosiers didn't know the license plate of the Jaguar that left the tread marks on their foreheads, and they were not alone.

Holmes embarked upon a six-game tear, hauling in 29 catches for 497 yards and seven touchdowns. Against Michigan, Holmes led a come-from-behind charge that saw the Buckeyes close the game to 28-21 with a chance to tie the score in the second half. In the Fiesta Bowl, he made the most of his opportunities by victimizing the Kansas State Wildcats for two touchdowns and 37 yards on just two receptions. Holmes played well enough that media, fans, and even he himself figured 2004 would be his last season in college.

On the eve of the 2004 Michigan game, Holmes admitted, "You have to be ready mentally and physically … I thought I was at the beginning of the season."

Returning for One More Year

What changed his mind? According to Holmes, it was a variety of factors.

He cited the physical and mental aspects of the NFL.

"It was the little injuries I was getting this season," Holmes said. "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 believes he is not quite mature enough to handle taking the quantum leap forward to the NFL after a tough 2004.

"It's been up and down," he said. "It's been rocky because knowing that everyone is going to evaluate who I am and how the defense is going to change against me has been tough on our offense because I have been a big part of the offense. A lot of guys have taken me out of some games, and I've kind of gotten frustrated over the course of the game. Now it's more of a ‘Get out there and have fun' kind of thing."

Then there is the lack of production. With Jenkins, Gamble and Carter all playing on Sundays, defenses focused their efforts on Holmes.

"One of the things Santonio had to deal with was that safety always over the top of him with the corner rolled on him, so that's hard," wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell noted. "That's a hard situation to be in."

Holmes admits OSU's sluggish offensive performances at midseason wore on him.

"I was frustrated because we had no one to really step up," said Holmes. "Our receiver corps had been changed around so many times. I was really looking forward to who is going to step up. I was questioning the guys during the week at practice that we needed somebody else to step up and help take the pressure of me, off (the quarterback), off the running backs, and just our whole offense in general. Guys key in on one person so the other guy can be the one to make big plays for us."

Still, Holmes finished the year with a team-high 55 catches for 769 yards (14.0 average) and seven touchdowns. He also returned a punt 63 yards for a score to end up tying freshman Ted Ginn Jr. with a team-high eight touchdowns.

Most important than numbers, however, is Holmes' family. Holmes didn't come to Ohio State just to get his ticket to the NFL. He wanted and still wants more.

"I'm on track to graduate," he said. "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.' "

Holmes understands the importance of a degree because he watched his mother work her fingers to the bone trying to put food on the table.

"She never had a chance to finish college," he said. "She never had a chance to finish high school. She had to go back and get her GED. I take that into consideration, saying to myself, ‘Man, this could be real big. I could be the first kid in my family to finish college.' I really would like to take full advantage of that."

Growing up, things weren't easy for Holmes or his siblings.

"I had to be the leader of the house," he said. "I had to take of my brothers when my mom was at work. (She would) come home at 6 at night and leave at 3 or 4 in the morning. I had to be the one to get up and get everyone ready for school, pick them up from school. I had to be the guy that cooked breakfast and cooked dinner when Mom wasn't there. Now it is to the point where she really wants me to enjoy my life, take care of my kids, but still be a role model for my brothers by doing what I am doing now – finishing up school."

He wants to be an example as a big brother and father of two. Instead of just being a male, Holmes recognizes his responsibilities and seeks to be a man.

"From my perspective with my mom and knowing just how hard she worked and gave everything she had to raise me and my brothers, it just pushes me to excel every day," he said as he thought about his situation. "It teaches me a lot. Knowing that what I do on and off the field can affect my brothers back home and how they react to certain things, and how they can finish the rest of their lives by looking at the mistakes I have made in my life and the good that came out of it."

It's All About Team

With Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez and Devon Lyons all returning in 2005, what should fans expect from the elusive pass catcher from Florida?

First, any ideas about Holmes seeking personal glory should be tossed out the window along with the dishwater.

"It is not about that," he said. "It is about the family. It's about the tradition. It's about how hard these guys are going to get out there and play together as a team and not being seen as an individual. A lot of the Florida schools – you can see a lot of guys taking blame for themselves on how they performed in a game … Or this person scored three times, and he's the headline. Here, it's not about who scores three touchdowns. It's about how Ohio State lost the game. You can't blame it on one person. It's about the team. The offense didn't do this or the defense didn't do that. It's more of a family type thing than individualism."

Nor should anyone expect him to lobby Justin Zwick or Troy Smith for increased attention for the benefit of NFL scouts who might be watching. He won't be pestering him to look his direction even if Smith misses him on occasion.

"It doesn't matter," reiterated Holmes. "There are other guys on the team probably open saying the same thing. Football isn't about a two-man game. It's about 11 guys working together. You should get out there and want to win for the team. Guys (can) want to get out there and shine for themselves. That's not what it is about. You have to win together."

Simply watch for the young man wearing No. 4 to go out and do his job. He wants to do the little things by picking up that extra block for a teammate to gain those few extra yards or spring them for a touchdown. Holmes wants to push his fellow receivers to bail out the quarterback and be more consistent in making the catch every time the ball comes close enough for him to touch it.

And he wants to make his family proud.

"My mom has really been there through thick and thin," he said. "I really appreciate everything she has done for me even though there have been times I could have expected more from her, but as I got older, I realized why some things happened and why they didn't happen. She is the one who is going to be there behind me 100 percent. She doesn't know much about the NFL or about signing contracts and things like that. She really doesn't want to be a part of that because she doesn't know how to make that kind of decision."

She just simply loves her son, and her son wants to show her he is becoming a man.

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