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Priest Holmes: Paying the Price of Being an NFL Running Back

May 23, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA;  An NFL football on the field during a St. Louis Rams OTA at ContinuityX Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
May 23, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; An NFL football on the field during a St. Louis Rams OTA at ContinuityX Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

I once heard a physician give a description of what it was like to be an NFL running back. He said if you wanted to experience the physicality of the game, go out and buy a football, pads and a helmet.

Put your garage door down, go out into the middle of the street. Get up a full head of steam, run into the garage door 20-25 times over a three hour period.

Repeat 16 times over the next four months.

Priest Holmes knows exactly what the price is to be paid for a ten year career as a running back in the NFL. An undrafted free agent, Holmes became a star in the NFL after an injury-marred career at Texas.

Priest, 5-9, 210, touched the ball (either running or receiving) over 2,100 from the line of scrimmage in the NFL. The fierce collisions took their toll on Holmes. That would seem to make him a prime candidate to be involved in the class action lawsuit that has over 1,200 former NFL players charging that the league has concealed information linking head injuries and concussions to permanent health problems.

Holmes declined to take part in the suit, but he clearly believes that there is a price to be paid for playing the game.

In a recent interview with Fox Sports, Holmes said he didn't necessarily see stars when knocked around, but there was a shift in colors.

"This color obviously isn't going to be blue. It can be a color that can be orange. It can be red. The sky could turn green," Holmes told The Daily. "There's even an episode where you see a clear light, like light at the end of the tunnel."

When Dick Vermeil was out of coaching and working college football on TV he saw the explosiveness of Holmes up close at the 1996 Big 12 Championship game. From 2001-2003, Vermeil had the Kansas City Chiefs running the second coming of "The Greatest Show on Turf," and Holmes was the centerpiece.

During that three-year span, Holmes carried the ball 960 times for 4,950 yards (4.8ypc) and 56 touchdowns. He also caught 206 passes for 1,976 yards and another 5 scores. That's almost 7,000 yards from the line of scrimmage. It is also 1,166 opportunities to take a beating from NFL defenses.

In the 2005 season, Holmes was driven out of bounds by San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman, and was thought to have suffered a "mild concussion." Holmes spent three months trying to recover from the hit.

"The frontal headaches, the migraines. Laying in bed, it's tough to get out mornings just because of the pain that is setting in with an arthritic condition, its things like that that you never would have really thought about," he said...

"Take some time off. You need some rest," Holmes was told. "Other than that, there was no treatment. There was nothing they could provide for me," Holmes recalled. "Was it a lack of research? Or was it just a step that hasn't been developed by the league?

Holmes freely admits that it was his choice to continue playing and that he loves the game. He was of course asked if he would want his sons to play the game, and he gave a measured response that if they had a true desire to play they could but that he would make sure that they understood that "it isn't a have to," and that there are other avenues available to them.

Holmes definitely had the "want to" all through high school, college and the NFL. While at Texas, Holmes missed a season due to a knee injury and found himself fighting with such luminaries as Shon Mitchell and Ricky Williams for playing time.

Of course, Priest's final game as a Longhorn was at the inaugural Big 12 Championship, and we never pass up a chance to show highlights of that game.

Holmes electrifying running style was as much a part of his fame as the yardage, and there are plenty of examples of his NFL success in this video.

By the way I had nothing – let me repeat – nothing to do with the music selection in this video.