During his heyday, former running back Priest Holmes was one of the NFL’s best running backs. Holmes rose to stardom with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he became a fan favorite behind his impressive ability on the field. The promising course he was heading in his career was tilted sideways, which quickly made him a shadow of the superstar player he once was.
Priest Holmes’ NFL career start with Ravens
Holmes stayed as the fourth-string running back throughout his rookie campaign. However, he got his opportunity the following season as two players ahead of him on the depth chart in Bam Morris and Earnest Byner departed in the offseason. Holmes broke through with his first 1,000 rushing-yard campaign with seven rushing touchdowns. That included tallying a season-high 227 rushing yards against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Coming off a productive collegiate career with Texas, it saw Priest Holmes go undrafted in the 1997 NFL draft before being signed by the Baltimore Ravens.
Despite, Holmes spent the next two seasons in a complementary role behind Jamal Lewis, who grasp the starting job. He played an important part of the running game that helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV. over the New York Giants. Holmes looked to be pigeon-holed as the second-string option in the backfield in Baltimore, but got his time to shine with his next destination.
Priest Holmes shines with Chiefs
Looking for a new home in the NFL to get an opportunity to showcase his ability, Priest Holmes found that with the Chiefs on a mostly inexpensive deal worth $11.7 million over five years.
Holmes quickly proved to be worth every penny and more of that contract as he led the league with 1,555 rushing yards with eight rushing touchdowns that made him the first undrafted player to lead the league in rushing. It set the course for an impressive three-year span in his career. That saw him take off into stardom over that stretch as he garnered three Pro Bowl selections, three First-Team All-Pro nods, led the league in rushing twice, and won NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Holmes followed up his breakout year with his best statistical campaign in 2002 that saw him notch 1,615 rushing yards along with a league-best 21 rushing touchdown while setting an NFL record. In the 2003 season, he notched 1,420 rushing yards while setting the single-season record with 27 rushing touchdowns. In each of those seasons, he also tallied north of 60 receptions and 600 receiving yards.
However, things came bumping off the track following that dominant stretch that saw him establish himself as arguably the best running back in the game.
Priest Holmes’ downfall due to neck injury
Priest Holmes took a progressive step down after that incredible three-year run as he struggled to move past injuries.
Holmes was limited to just eight games in the 2004 season but managed to tally 892 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Things changed for the worse the following year as he suffered a spinal column injury after being tackled by Shawne Merriman in October 2005. That opened the door for backup Larry Johnson to step in as the starter, which he had his success in that increased role.
Holmes’ injury issues with his spine continued through the 2006 preseason, which led to him being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Meanwhile, Johnson remained firmly as the starter as the three-time Pro Bowler had to miss the entire season. Holmes did make a return for the 2007 season, which he made his first start in Week 7 against the Oakland Raiders.
The return to the field was short-lived as he suffered another neck injury in his fourth game back against the Indianapolis Colts as he finished with 137 rushing yards on 46 carries with five catches for 17 receiving yards. Holmes announced his retirement on Nov. 21, three days after what proved to be his final game.
His once-promising career had been derailed by an injury that prevented him from stringing together a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Holmes received a Ring of Honor induction from the Chiefs as he retired the franchise leader in career rushing touchdowns (76), total touchdowns (83), and career rushing yards (6,070). However, his time in the league will always be looked back upon as what could have been.