Times that try Santonio's soul

Football writers have to get in shape, too, so I'm spending the off-season reviewing the history of the world. Sure, it's a bit comprehensive, but you never know when such a review will pay off -- like now.

A letter from a woman named Sarah Hodgkins, written to her husband, John, an American officer in retreat from the Battle of Brooklyn during our army's low point in 1776, struck a chord.

"It has been observed," Mrs. Hodgkins wrote, "that man's extremity is God's opportunity."

It's probably been said a million different ways since then, but the sentence made me think about the night Santonio Holmes spent in jail. I wondered what was going through his mind during the 13 hours he spent locked up after being accused of domestic violence, less than a month after being charged with disorderly conduct in Miami, which occurred a month after being drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

What was going through Holmes's mind in his moment of extremity? What would he tell the reporters bound to bombard him the next morning? What would he tell Bill Cowher, who'd already scheduled one sit-down with him? What would he tell the Rooneys? His accuser? His other kids and their mother in Florida? And what's his mother thinking? At least she knew what state her son was in that night.

So the star was in jail. Mr. Big. And all of the above have yet to tear into his signing bonus, so there's a good chance these distractions will continue.

Some are saying Holmes doesn't even deserve a bonus. Some are saying he should be sent packing, his rights traded for a blocking sled and some old balls. Some are dredging through his past in an attempt to figure out whether Holmes is a bad guy or not. So let's review the facts:

1. Holmes has three children, ages 4 months to four years, to two different women, neither of whom are this 22-year-old bachelor's wife.

2. Holmes was charged with disorderly conduct for sassing a cop during a South Beach jaywalking crackdown in Miami. He was visiting two of his children at the time, but slipped out for some human interaction at 3:30 a.m.

3. Holmes was charged this past weekend with domestic violence and assault (with an old tailgating charge thrown in) as he visited his other child. A torn shirt was the alleged crime.

Obviously, points two and three have much to do with point one. He obviously doesn't want his children to grow up the way he did -- without a dad, as the eldest of four children. "He had to be big brother, mommy and daddy all at once," his mother told the Post-Gazette on draft day.

So there's some understandable anger residing within Holmes, but there's also indication that he's trying to do the right thing, that he cares about his children, maybe too much.

Is this the kind of young man the Steelers should turn their backs on? Of course not. In fact it might be the right time for the team to take a keen interest in Holmes. It might be time for Dan Rooney to sit down with Holmes and hash out the problems here. What do the kids want? What do they need? What do their mothers want? What do they need? Involve them if possible; hash out the root of the anger and work on it.

I interviewed Santonio Holmes during the three-day minicamp after the draft. He showed sensitivity, intelligence, humor and respect for me, a complete stranger. Two months later I believe he's the last person you'd want to throw on life's scrap heap.

He's a bit angry. Yes, he's a rebel. But is he fighting for the proper cause? That's the question he undoubtedly worked over that night alone in his jail cell.

Don't be surprised if that night of extremity is the basis of a turnaround. Don't be surprised if some day, in post-game exultation, he cites that night and how he made sure it became God's opportunity.


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