The pressures of preparing for the most important day of his life had passed. The days of struggling to make ends meet are over. And most importantly to him, the days of hearing his mother leave their home for the cornfields of Belle Glade, Fla. at 3 a.m. are gone.
Or so he thought.
Less than 12 hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up seven spots and made Holmes their first-round draft choice Saturday, thus making him a multi-millionaire, Patricia Brown awoke before dawn and headed to her job of packing corn like any other day.
"That hurt," Holmes said Monday morning at the Steelers' South Side complex moments after being introduced to the Pittsburgh media.
"I really didn't appreciate it but like I said before, I commend my mom on all the things she's been able to do and the way she's continued to work and support her family."
For over two decades that's how it was for Holmes. Now it's time for Holmes to take care of his mother.
"I told her all our worries are pretty much taken care of now, financially," Holmes said. "Hopefully she is going to enjoy this moment just like I am."
Holmes grew up in southern Florida the oldest of four kids to a single mother. Holmes's father, Santonio Sr., left his family when he was two years old.
So at an early age when his mother was working hard at going back to high school getting her degree, heading to nursing school and, of course, venturing out into the cornfields, Holmes had to play the roles of big brother, mommy and daddy to his three younger brothers -- all at once.
Maybe that's why Holmes projects himself much more mature than his 22 years would suggest?
"I'm her first born, the first guy out of our immediate family to go to college and to get drafted in the NFL. She's so excited right now," Holmes said. "She's been my backbone. We never really had a close relationship until I got to college. I was always afraid to talk to my mom about anything. Now I call whenever I have a problem with anything. She's always there for me. She's been working in the fields all her life, getting up at three in the morning and coming home at four or five in the afternoon."
Maybe that's where Holmes got that moniker of being a first-to-practice, last-to-leave type of kid when it comes to the game of football. Maybe that's where the drive that led him to being one of the top football players in the country last year came from. Maybe that's where the drive to be a successful person came from. Or maybe that drive came from Santonio III, Nicori and Shaniya – Holmes's three young kids.
Holmes is a single parent, too, with two sons, who live with his mom in Belle Glade. He also has a daughter, Shaniya (2 months), who lives in Columbus, Ohio.
"I am going to spend as much time as possible with my kids, because I know I am not going to see them as much," Holmes said. "I have been taking it all in and trying to really understand that now I am a professional and not a college athlete anymore.
"They don't know what is going on right now. I know they are going to be just as happy for me as I am for them because I get a chance to spend a lot more time with them now because I am not in school and so far away."
Holmes, who arrived in Pittsburgh last night from Florida, plans to head back to school in Columbus before minicamp starts May 13.
"Right now I'm enrolled in college," Holmes said. "I'm going to take that day-by-day and whenever the time comes for me to come here for minicamp I'll be ready. I'll probably just train back in Columbus with a bunch of my teammates before those guys leave. I'll get ready from there."
Holmes, a general studies major at Ohio State, is a year away from earning his degree. He knows it will be difficult with his football responsibilities to get his degree anytime soon. However, he plans on going back to school in the offseason until his graduation requirements are fulfilled. Realistically, he doesn't have much of a say so in that especially when it comes to his mother.
"It's something that my mom has been drilling into my head since I was a little kid," Holmes said. "She's so proud of me right now for being drafted but at the same time she's telling me there's nothing more important than having my degree because if things don't go right in the NFL there's always something to fall back on. She's always told me that no one can ever take this away from me because I earned it and worked for it. "