Priest Holmes: Giving Back

SAN ANTONIO -- When his days in the NFL ended, former Longhorn running back Priest Holmes returned to his home of San Antonio with one goal in mind: to help underprivileged youth in his community. He became a director of the Camp With the Pros charity event and quickly turned it from a weekend football camp into an artist, musician and athlete extravaganza.

He's a Super Bowl champion, a three-time Pro Bowler, holds a rushing title and an NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. Priest Holmes made his mark on the NFL, but now the former Texas running back is making his mark on the city of San Antonio with the Priest Holmes Foundation and Celebrity Weekend SA.

While he was still playing in the NFL, Holmes would take part in the annual "Camp With the Pros" event, where he and other NFL stars would instruct kids on football fundamentals. However, when Holmes retired from the League, he decided to take on a bigger role and work to grow the event into something much larger than anyone involved could have predicted.

"I came back to the city and wanted to be hands on," Holmes told Inside Texas. "(The camp directors) presented me with some of the ideas they wanted to do and I said, 'You know what? I'm retired now. Can I put my twist on it and add some of the things I've always wanted to do, as far as being a director instead of just being an athlete who makes an appearance?'"

Holmes' "twist" was certainly ambitious. Did he have some new drills for the camp? Or perhaps a new location? Oh no, no, no. Holmes laid out his plan for a weekend-long extravaganza with celebrity guests from the world of music, entertainment and athletics. The end result came to fruition this past weekend, when Holmes hosted the first annual Celebrity Weekend SA.

The weekend started with the football camp on Friday, where kids got to learn from Holmes and other NFL players. But it wasn't a camp just for those who could afford the $80 tuition.

"We've opened it to the city of San Antonio," said Holmes. "We've opened it to not only our scholarship kids, kids that are not able to afford the $80, but we also provided that through our sponsors. They allow for us to be able to go into the south side, west side, east side, pull those kids out and they get to come to the camp for free."

Nine years ago when Camp With the Pros started, there were just 25 kids and conditions were less than ideal.

"We didn't have any bleachers, we didn't have any paint. We just had grass and some of it was dirt," said Holmes.

On Friday, over 200 showed up for the football camp, which was just the start of the weekend. On Saturday morning, the kids worked out again with players such as Detroit Lions running back Tatum Bell, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington and Houston Texans defensive end N.D. Kalu and more. Then, each of the kids were given a shirt and a wrist band and piled with their parents onto bus to head over to Freeman Coliseum for the real fireworks: the celebrity basketball game and benefit concert.

"We brought down close to 60 people in terms of celebrities, guests, NFL players, artists, producers, everyone," said Holmes.

Just to name a few, Holmes brought in from the world of music performers such as R&B artist Mario, rapper Chingy, rapper Young Berg and 14-year-old pop sensation Ally Brooke. He brought in actors and actresses such as Adrian R'Mante (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody), Nick Gonzalez (The O.C., That 70s Show, Dharma & Greg, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty), Paige Hurd (ER, Felicity, Medium and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) and Temple Poteat (Passions and The Young and the Restless).

Tony Parker and Robert Horry served as coaches for the the celebrity teams and the concert was hosted by Mario and Karina Smirnoff from Dancing with the Stars. The kids all sat together in their own section and all the money from the public ticket sales went to the Priest Holmes Foundation, which then turned around and gave the money to three local charities: Shooting Stars Basketball Academy, St. Peter-St. Joseph Children's Home and Bay Bay's Kids.

Holmes did a lot of legwork leading up to the event and has dedicated himself full time to the foundation.

"I've taken off the cleats and put on my business shoes," said Holmes. "I go into every one of these meetings personally with every single sponsor you see here today. I've gone to every single one of those offices."

He's also been able to bring in sponsors because of connections, such as one with former Longhorn receiver and fellow San Antonio resident Wane McGarity.

"It's all about connecting the dots," said Holmes. "I'm coming out of retirement and Wane is over with Health and Wellness for HEB, he has his own program. We linked up and we said, 'How can we help the community?' Because we have a common interest in these camps. He said, 'Priest, I'm going to bring HEB to the table to see what they can do.'"

Because of McGarity's efforts, HEB provided all of the food for the camp, free of charge, and a multitude of local sponsors got involved thanks to the work Holmes put into. Of course, the title sponsorship went to his own foundation, which he paid for with $50,000 of his own money so he could bring all of the celebrities down for the event.

This is what Holmes has dedicated his life to. He told IT that he knows he's not perfect, but he just stays focused each day on what he wants to accomplish.

"Hopefully I do the right things. Just as much as Cedric Benson has made some mistakes and Ricky Williams has made mistakes, I could make the same mistakes. I'm no greater than anybody else, but the thing is I'm just honored to be in the position I am and hope I can continue to do the right things. That's why I stay busy every day through this foundation and don't have idle time," said Holmes.

He achieved a great deal in his NFL career, but Holmes' greatest accomplishments may be in front of him as he works to help his community in San Antonio.

Camp Photo Gallery
All pictures by Will Gallagher/Inside Texas

A camp volunteer is "sacked" by one of the campers

Wane McGarity (left) and Priest Holmes help out a camp attendee

Holmes talks to kids at the camp

A volunteer works with some of the older kids

A pair of campers head for the next drill

Holmes councils one of the camp attendees

Looking for an open receiver

The kids yell with Holmes, "Hard work!"

It's off to lunch for some hungry campers

Priest Holmes at the camp

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