Once Priest Holmes saw the spot in the Chiefs’ Ring of Honor that that had been carved out just for him Sunday afternoon — it was covered by a black curtain for the entire first half — he vowed not to look at it again until his on-field ceremony at Arrowhead Stadium.
But once halftime rolled around, and the highlights of Holmes’ seven-year Chiefs career stopped playing on the JumboTron videoboard, Holmes proudly looked up as the curtain fell and he officially became the 44th entrant into the Chiefs Hall of Fame.
“I know when I walked through these doors back in 2001, it was one thing that I always said: ‘Man, it would be kind of cool to get your name put on the stadium,’” Holmes said. “What it would take, how long it would take … those are things I never really considered.
“But I knew as far as being aggressive, forward-thinking and with the work ethic I have, that those are things that definitely could come in the future, and it did.”
Holmes, who joined the Chiefs after spending four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, was the centerpiece of the most dynamic offense in the NFL from 2001 to 2005. That includes highlights 2003, when Kansas City led the NFL in scoring, and in 2004, when it led the NFL in total offense.
“I always talk about my four years in Baltimore were my four dark years because I really had a chance to understand the game of football,” Holmes said. “Earnest Byner was 35 years old, so he taught me a lot.
“One thing he told me is that there’s a difference between a professional football player and just a football player. The professional player, when he leaves the game, he’s still going to be able to leave a legacy. People will still remember him and all the things that he did that he did that were great. Most football players, they play and made a lot of limelight, but they may not be remembered.”
Holmes started building his legacy his first year with the Chiefs in 2001, when he rushed for a then-franchise record 1,555 yards. He was then selected NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2002 after leading the league with 2,287 total yards from scrimmage and 24 touchdowns while finishing third in rushing with a club-record 1,615 yards.
Holmes’ signature season was 2003, when he helped the Chiefs to a 13-3 record and scored a NFL-record 27 touchdowns, a mark that has since been broken twice. Holmes not only led the Chiefs in rushing with 1,420 yards in 2003 but also caught a team-high 74 passes, breaking the club record of 70 for a running back that he had set in 2002.
“Having the teammates I had during that span, they really helped me mature and and they allowed me to do so many great things,” Holmes said. “My offensive line, (tight end) Jason Dunn, of course, Tony Gonzalez … everyone paid attention to him before they knew what I was about to do, so I was very thankful for that.”
When Holmes retired after the 2007 season, he had rushed for a club-record 6,070 yards, which has since been broken by fellow Texas Longhorn Jamaal Charles.
“Hat’s off to him,” Holmes said. “Records are meant to be broken. … I’m excited because we have something in common, going back to the University of Texas, so I’m really excited about what he’s been able to accomplish.”
But while Charles again took a starring role on Sunday — he scored a first-half touchdown — he had to share the spotlight with Holmes, who couldn’t have been prouder following the ceremony.
“I still have chills,” Holmes said after the ceremony. “Just to have my parents here, and my kids here, and tons of family and friends, it really meant a lot to me. When I pulled up this morning and I started seeing No. 31 jerseys, it just kind of took me back during that. We had a really good time running the ball and throwing it.”