DETROIT – There was a lot to catch up on when Brad Holmes returned home to Tampa, Florida for the 1999 Christmas vacation.
Not far from helping North Carolina A&T win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Black College Football National Championship as a second defensive tackle, Holmes, 20, wanted to relax.
So he and his team got together early in the day at his best friend Gabe Galdos’ townhouse off Lake Madeleine – aka their hangout – to enjoy some good vibes.
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When it was time to head back to his parents, Holmes rode in his Champagne 1992 Honda Accord.
He made a left turn onto busy Fletcher Avenue. Her next memory was waking up in the hospital.
“I don’t remember anything,” said Holmes.
He could have been killed. On the driver’s side, a head-on collision with another car knocked him unconscious.
The official accident report has long been purged by the state of Florida, so it’s unclear how it happened or what happened to others involved, but the flashbacks of the consequences are forever etched in our memories. by Holmes.
He spent more than three weeks in the hospital after first falling into a coma and then suffering a stroke. Holmes had to undergo emergency surgery for a ruptured diaphragm, followed by a second operation.
The stroke left Holmes partially paralyzed on his right side and he lost much of his motor function. But even with his body severely damaged from the crash, he made a promise to A&T trainer Bill Hayes, who had driven more than nine hours from Goldsboro, North Carolina, to visit him in the hospital. .
“Coach, I’m going to play again,” said Holmes.
And he did.
The road to recovery took about five months, with Holmes devoting himself to a process that included speech therapy and activities to strengthen his body. In May, not only was Holmes back on the pitch, but he was named the team’s captain.
Holmes graduated with Distinction from A&T in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication before rising through the NFL ranks, spending 18 seasons at the Rams front office before being named Lions general manager in January. With the Rams, Holmes started as a public relations intern in 2003, before moving on to scouting and rising through the ranks to become the organization’s director of varsity scouting.
“[The Lions] can expect him not to try to cut corners. What he does will be well thought out and solid, ”Hayes said of Holmes’ latest challenge: resurrecting a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in 30 years. “He’s not going to wield a magic wand, that’s not who he is, but he’s going to roll up his sleeves and every time the sun comes up he’s going to stand there, ready to go to work.”
“That’s who he is. He’s a worker, ”Hayes added. “I know he’s up to the task because he’s prepared for the task and will do it. He will do it. “
Months of planning, preparation and discussion led Holmes to enter the Lions war room for day one of the 2021 NFL Draft. Holding the No.7 pick overall, he couldn’t contain his enthusiasm when it was time to call Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell and brief him on the Lions selection.
“Alright, man. We’re about to choose you here. Congratulations, man, ”Holmes told Sewell. “It’s One Pride here, man. We want you to be in that pride, okay? You’re going to be a big part of what we do in the future, okay? “
Holmes then hugged first-year head coach Dan Campbell with a tight hug before yelling “Wooooo!” celebrating. It was a moment Holmes had been waiting for all his life.
“Even in high school, when no one was watching the draft and it wasn’t really popular at the time, it was something he talked about all the time and we were talking about the draft and the players and everything the fan was talking about. NFL average I don’t care, ”said Galdos, who met Holmes in sophomore in 1994 at Chamberlain High School in Tampa.
“Really back then it wasn’t like it is now, but it was everywhere even in 1994 and ’95. He’s a real football guy,” he added.
Former Rams general manager Billy Devaney has helped elevate Holmes’ responsibilities from a combine scout to a national scout within the organization.
“He’s a great talent assessor,” said Devaney. “He knows the players. It’s extremely detailed and has a great way to present it. When you’re in your draft meetings talking about players, he has a great way to present and paint a picture of the player exactly the way he thinks he is.
“The other thing is that he’s very strong in his convictions. It doesn’t bother him, he will express his opinion, and if he is in the minority it will not bother him. He will fight for his guys and he will fight for his opinion. As much as anything, do you know what really jumped out at the start? It might take a hard workout.
Holmes’ mother, Joan, described him as “very social,” with strong leadership skills growing up. In high school, Holmes was a nice guy who played soccer, wore jerseys and was named the reunion king.
Holmes’ father was the late Melvin Holmes, a former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman in the 1970s.
His uncle, Luther Bradley, was an outstanding defensive back at Notre Dame before being drafted by the Lions with the 11th pick in the 1978 draft.
“Brad practically lived, ate and breathed football,” Joan said. “In our family he is seen as a sort of walking encyclopedia of all aspects of football. And as you’ve probably read, we come from a very proud footballing family, so all of their DNA has been football. “
Great task ahead
Football, however, was not the reason Galdos called Joan that day during the Christmas break in 1999.
“I knew for a fact that she had to know what was going on, because at that point, too, we didn’t know he was going to be okay,” Galdos said. “We really had no idea how serious or how serious the situation was.”
Galdos still resides in Tampa where he runs Ark Realty as a real estate broker and agent. He often walks past the scene of the accident to reflect how far everyone in their high school circle has come, especially Holmes.
Joan said her son unconscious for days was her “most devastating experience”. All she could do was pray for him as she moved into the hospital to be by his side.
“If you ask him, he never really talks about it. But I sent him a picture, they did a story about him, his recovery and how he survived the crash and it was a big story about him with his helmet on, ”Joan said. “I laminated it and sent it to him as a gift, and he has it now in his home office. I said, ‘This is to motivate you every day. That you were saved for some reason.
Holmes is one of five black general managers in the NFL, and he’s tasked with taking over an organization that finished 5-11 in 2020 with the worst defense in the NFL.
A complete reconstruction is underway. And Holmes is not running away from this story.
“Dude, I just control what I can control. This is how I was brought up. That’s what I think and I think that’s all we can do, ”said Holmes. “I will tell the story, because of the losses that have accumulated in the past, we don’t ignore it and we understand that this story is there. But Dan and I just have a process and a plan in place that we trust, that we trust and we stick to it and we’ve been sticking to it from day one.
“We’re on the right track, and we’re where we’re supposed to be, and I feel like we haven’t had any real roadblocks so far. I know adversity will come at some point, but I think adversity will also make us stronger.
But, even in these difficult days, he will never forget what it was like to be in the intensive care unit when life was not promised. That alone keeps everything in perspective.
“It’s the greatest adversity I have ever experienced in my entire life and I had a hard time with my dad passing away and all that, but it was definitely the greatest for sure,” Holmes said.
Michael Rothstein of ESPN contributed to this report.