Interview with Santonio Holmes, WR New York Jets

| May 24, 2011

Recently, Santonio Holmes has been swept up in storm of negative press. It seems like he can’t escape what happened in Pittsburgh, the reasons for the 2010 “trade” to the Jets, and new focus on where he’s headed as a free agent in 2011. 
 
Instead, my discussion with Santonio focused on what he’s doing to give back to the community and, ofcourse, football.  There’s a lot on his website detailing what he’s doing to be involved in the community.  It’s time to find a little more about Santonio as person and refocus on football.

 
 
 

Steve Wyremski (SW): How’s the offseason going so far? What have you been up to?

Santonio Holmes (SH):  Mostly laying low. Training as usual throughout the mornings…  every day five days a week.  [I’ve been] spending some time with the family.  Just sitting back and resting, man.  Waiting to see what’s going to happen with the season.
 

SW:  Your workout schedule right now.  Take me through a typical day.

SH: I arrive at workouts at about 8:30 in the morning. I go through normal lift days [and] depending on what day it is… upper body or lower body.   The workout is about an hour / hour and a half in the weight room.  We leave the weight room and go out to the football field and do football specifics whether we’re cutting, doing agilities, running through cones, doing bungee cords, working on the track, speed work, going through the sand pit, [and] jogging 2-3 miles a day.  That’s pretty much it.
 

SW:  I saw you’re out training with a bunch of other guys – Chris Johnson, William Gay – you guys all training out there together?

SH:  Yeah, we’ve been training together for the past three years. I’ve been in the league six years now, so I’ve been there the past six years. It’s myself, Ike Taylor, James Farrior, just to name a few guys I’ve been training with.
 

SW: I see you’re involved in the F.I.N.E.S.S.E. Foundation Football Camp.  It looks like it’s June 19th down in Boca Raton at Florida Atlantic University.  What is F.I.N.E.S.S.E. and what is it all about?

SH: The F.I.N.E.S.S.E. [Football Camp] was designed by a close friend of mine (Cergile Sincere).  I got involved with it through him.  It’s a [chance] to give underprivileged kids an opportunity to get out and seek some kind of guidance and direction in their lives through football. We have a four-day overnight football camp.  [It’s] full contact for kids ages 7 to 14.  Last year, Cerg and me sponsored five or six kids and this year we’re looking to sponsor 10 kids at the camp.  We just want to teach these guys some morals and teach them what it’s all about to get to the NFL, what it takes for education, how to be respectful, be honest, a good team player, [and] be a leader.  I think it’s something that every kid that wants [to do], but doesn’t have the funds or guidance through their parents or relatives watching over there, to get out and see what the world has to offer.  Having this is something special for the kids back in Belle Glade.
 

SW: I want to go to the field for a little bit.  [Explain PFF]. In 2010, we ranked your week 11 game against the Texans as your best game of the year.   Coincidentally, that’s also your best statistical game of the season.  Do you agree that that game was your best of the year?

SH:  I don’t know.  I can’t even recall.  I’ve been out of football and haven’t been able to watch film for a while now.  I can’t even recall the 12 / 13 games that I did play this year. All of them were very impactful. The Texans’ game was very big because it kind of just showed to the fans my true colors: that I’m able to spread the field [and] no matter where I’m at on the field, I’m a threat to a lot of teams. That just comes with hard work.  That’s all in a day’s work that I put in over time and it shows every Sunday. I have no fear on playing the game [or] who I’m up against.  Just put the ball in my hands and I can help the team in some way by getting the job done.
 

SW:  In 2010, 62% of your snaps came out wide left or at split end.  Is there any particular reason for that?

SH: To my knowledge, I have no idea. I don’t chart those types of things. I don’t know if the coaches feel some type of way about me running routes from that side of the field or is it a better view for Mark to throw the football.  I honestly don’t know. I’ve been told that by a few other people that a majority of the time I line up on the left side.
 

SW:  Sticking to the 62% of your snaps wide left… over 50% of your catches and yardage came over the middle. That’s similar to what happened back in 2009 as well.  The middle seems to be a sweet spot for you.  Why do you think that’s the case?

SH: Maybe because it’s a right-handed quarterback and a lot of people like to focus towards his right side.  I don’t care where I line up on the field.  You can put me in front of the center and have me run routes from that area.  It wouldn’t make a difference to me if I can catch the ball.  I don’t know.  I never even looked into it and never thought about it. I do watch the fact that Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne only played on one particular side throughout their careers. I’ve never focused on myself being one-sided [or] dimensional receiver.
 

SW: I’m sure you’ve seen NFL Network recently ranked the Top 100 players in the game today.   You were on that list at #76. From your point of view is that expected – you surprised?

SH:  Honestly, I didn’t expect it. I missed four games.  A lot of people had doubt on how I’d return. My focus was to just get out and make as many plays for my team as possible.  To be rated in the Top 100 is definitely an honor.  I wish it would have been higher even if it was just for the fans so they can have something to brag about.  I do all my bragging come Sunday on the field.
 

SW: In that series, Jets WR Coach Henry Ellard said this about you, “I wouldn’t necessarily call him a playmaker.  I call him a game changer.”  Fair assessment?

SH:  I one hundred thousand percent agree. That’s been my focus.  Whether I touch the ball one time or I touch the ball 10 times a game, each one of those plays is going to be very impactful to myself, the team, and the situation. I just live for every moment. Whenever the ball is thrown at me, my objective is to get ball and get it in the end zone.  If it’s just calls to make a play over the middle of the field or the sideline to save the clock and kick field goals, I think about all those things when the games on the line. I think that’s what big time playmaker receivers are.
 

SW:  Sticking with that, in 2010 you had four particular games (Detroit, Houston, Cleveland and the playoff game against the Patriots) where you made clutch plays to close out a game and the Jets walked away with a W.  It seems to be a little bit more than a coincidence.   What’s the deal?

SH:  It’s all in a day’s work, man.  We put ourselves in tough situations throughout the games and it just so happens that the ball happened to find me in each of those big play moments. I live to play from when the clock says 15 minutes till it says zero after four quarters. Each time I step on the field I’m looking to do something spectacular with the football. It may seem spectacular [from] the fans’ perspective, but it my eyes it’s all in a day’s work. I never get too hyped or too excited about something.  I may show a lot of emotion on the field, but all of it is just in a day’s work.  The work I put in practice, the offseason… it all shows come Sunday.
 

SW: You had that huge Super Bowl catch to seal the Steelers’ win back in ’08.  Do you think that play in particular helps you make those other plays more recently?  I know you say it’s that the ball happened to find you, but it seems to be a little bit more than that.

SH: I honestly don’t think about that. I’ve been playing ball since I was six years old [and I’ve spent] 20 years of doing this every day / every week.  Coach Henry and I would talk about it… How am I going to get better?  What do I need to work on today? That’s all my focus is on.  They all just seem to fall in place. I say it… and I repeat it… it’s all in a day’s work.

Nothing gets bigger than making a catch in the Super Bowl.  The catches that I’ve made throughout this past season were all just routine plays that we would do in practice [and] the defense ended up slipping up.  My focus is to get the ball and continue running to get the ball in the end zone.  It started back in my rookie year.  To end the season with a touchdown to stop the Bengals from going to the playoffs as a rookie… that was a very impactful catch for me.

It was something that was just routine.  You throw me a slant ball [and] my objective is to get up field. I got a real good feel for defenses when they’re lined up [and] me and the quarterback, [we’re] watching eye-to-eye.  I’ve got real good vision when it comes to knowing how to escape tackles and different angles to take when it comes to running away from guys and using [my] speed to complete the play.
 

SW:  Before those big plays in the huddle in 2010, what do you say to Sanchez before you break?  Anything?

SH:  We can’t say anything to our quarterbacks. You do all your talking on the sideline. Once you step on the field, everything has to fall in place. You can’t be in the huddle yelling at him and telling him you need the ball when there’s 10 other guys around watching. You don’t want to divert his attention from what he has to focus on whether it’s snap count, defensive line, safeties rotating, the plays that are being called, the routes that are being run, [or] who’s blocking what. He has so many things to focus on and that’s one of my least favorite things to do: to grab the attention of my quarterback before breaking the huddle. I do all of my talking the sideline [to] let him know what plays I was open [and] how I beat the guy when you see those coverages.  That helps him learn, grow, and gain trust as a quarterback.
 

SW:  Going back to charity work, you were also a part of Pros for Africa back in March.  You and a bunch of other guys like Vontae Davis, Adrian Peterson, Roy Williams (CIN), etc. went out to volunteer in Uganda and Rwanda.  Tell me a bit about the trip and what it was all about.

SH:  The trip was amazing, man.  It was an opportunity to give back to those that are less fortunate and have no interest in the things that we [NFL players] do.   The fact that we have a lot of money and can come in and help draws attention to the families and [shows] that someone cares and someone is willing to get out and help.

It’s not only us that do this.  There are people all over the world that not many people care to hear about or read about that go out to Africa and [other] different places in the world to try and help those that are less fortunate.  Growing up in America, yeah we say we have it hard here, but it’s very hard to live over there with very little electricity, eating the same things every day, [and] struggle for clothing and food.  The necessities are just not there.  [It’s] just giving back to those that started everything back in the motherland, which I believe in and where we all descended from.  To just give back and see the smiles on their faces was a tremendous feeling to know that we made someone smile millions of miles away from where we grew up never knowing that [we] would be in this position to fly back to Africa and give back.
 

SW: It looked like last year you also went on a separate trip with David Clowney out to Africa.  Is this something that you’re looking to do annually?

SH: Yes, this is going to be something that’s going to be special to me, probably, for the rest of my life. My kids would love to go to Africa to see what it’s like. I’m eager to take them so they can see that those guys have it harder than [them].  [I want them to understand that] dad work as hard as he does so that [they] don’t have to struggle, but every day is a struggle out in Africa.  Whether it’s running away from home, fearing for your life, no food, no clothes, [or] no shoes.

I’m starting a “Hands up 10” campaign. Around the league, I’m going to get a lot of NFL players, basketball players, baseball players, and whoever wants to volunteer (fans if they want) to donate clothing to me so that we can send it out to Africa because those kids and those families really need help. I think I want to draw attention to Haiti as well.  My friend Cerg, his father and mother are from Haiti. I donated money to Haiti through Red Cross on my website when the earthquake hit.  I did the Pros for Japan while we were out in Africa to help draw awareness to what’s going on and those that can help. It’s just tremendous to know that a name can ring a bell and draw a lot of good things.
 

SW: That time out in Africa, there’s no lockout nonsense and no one hounding you on where you’re going to sign next year.  What would you say was the biggest take away from that experience being removed from everything?

SH: It’s life changing. There are decisions some times in life that you regret, but when you go over there you have none of those.  You just know that someone is in need. If you can give… give. There’s no point in not sharing the wealth that you have. It’s very touching to give back to them. I’ve always given everything that I’ve had to my brothers.  I never asked my mom for anything in particular when it came down to buying school clothes and Christmas gifts.  I would tell my mom, “Just give it to my brothers. I don’t need it.  I’ll take the hand-me-downs from my uncles. I’ll be ok.”  That’s the way I live, that’s the way I grew up, and at some point it came back to me.  Now I’m able to give and not have any worries.
 

SW: A few weekends back, you ran your 2nd annual free football camp with your cousin Fred Taylor.  It was held May 14th.  Tell me a bit about that.

SH: Ah man, it’s fun. It’s just giving back to the city of Belle Glade. Over the past 20 years, nobody has done anything for our hometown.  Now, me, Fred Taylor, and another NFL player (James Lee from the Tampa Bay Bucs) who has a football camp in June [are] giving something that we never had. These kids love football and watch us every week.  They see where we are and don’t really know what it takes to get there, but having a football camp and bringing back different players from around the NFL, high school coaches and people in the neighborhood is something special for the kids and people of the community.
 

SW:  You’re involved in numerous off the field activities.  Some we talked about, but there are also many others on your website.  It seems to be more than the average NFL player.  Why do you get involved as much as you do?

SH:  It’s such a short time on this earth and very little time to give. I try not to spread myself too thin by giving too much, but I want to leave a legacy behind.  It’s much more than just football. To teach people, educate them, and keep them out of trouble is one way to continue to change the world in the future.
 

SW:  Throughout your career, you’ve played with two young quarterbacks.  Mark this past year and Ben Roethlisberger when you were with the Steelers.   Both guys seem to have an uncanny ability for playing well in the playoffs.  What is it about those two guys that leads to the playoff success?

SH: They like to have fun. Those guys are in the classroom learning.  They want to win. It makes them happy and it makes their family happy.  They’re competitors just like I am.  To be around those guys during that time, its like “wow dude, we pretty much have the same thing in common,” which is to just get out and play football.  No matter what time of the year it is… how can we win [and] what are we going to do to win. That’s what drives both of those guys to be such great quarterbacks.
 

SW: You watched Ben mature to become a top quarterback through four years with the Steelers. What do you think Mark needs to do to play at a higher or the highest level?

SH: It comes down to his trust and his ability to deliver when the time comes, and to never allow things to get to him when he can’t control the situation.  It’s every day routine and wanting to get better.  I see it every day.  The guy texts me all the time, “Hey Tone, come out.  Let’s go do this, let’s go do that.  Let’s fly here.  How about we go workout here.”  It takes those types of things to show a player that he’s eager to be the best quarterback.  He hates when people downplay him for his interceptions. We tell him all the time that it’s just a game, never let anybody tell you about your career and the way you play because you want to be able to tell that story on the football field, [and] whether things happen or not, it’s just learning from your mistakes and correcting them every day.  After practice, even after games, the guy wants to go in and watch film.  He stays over.  He sees the mistakes that he’s done.  He’s always in the locker room and the meeting rooms… one of the first guys there.  That just shows his maturity.
 

SW: You talk a little bit about fun.  “Flight Boys” which you guys instituted this year. What impact does that have on the team mentality?

SH: You want a group of receivers that are very hungry [and] guys that don’t beat each other up or want more attention. Those guys fully understand what it takes to be a team player. We all know that we were once big time receivers in college.  Now to put all three of us (myself, Jericho, and Braylon) on the same team together, it shows that we have confidence in ourselves that we can get the job done and we’re not going to continue fighting for who gets the most yards [or] who catches the ball the most.  We just want to get the job done and win ball games.

That’s the attention that we all brought to ourselves.  That this is a group.  There isn’t just Santonio Holmes the big playmaker, or Braylon Edwards the guy who drops the passes or who everybody thought that’s all he could do, or Jericho who’s Mr. Reliable.  There’s three guys on the roster that are eager to make plays no matter where they are on the field [and] no matter if they are the first receiver on the depth chart or the third receiver on the depth chart. It just showed that we’re all team players.
 

SW: I want to talk a little bit about Rex.  Rex is bold – everyone knows it.  All season long in 2010, he preached the Jets were going to win the Super Bowl and the team believed it from everything we saw through the playoffs.  He’s now saying it again for the 2011 season ever since the AFC Championship loss.  Does it become a “boy who cried wolf” thing at any point as a player?

SH: He’s a man of his words and he’s a fun coach to be around. He believes in winning and the only way you can win is to preach it. If you preach negativity, that’s pretty much what you’re going to get out of the situation. He knows that he has a group of guys that think and want to win.  That’s the whole coach philosophy – to build your guys up and not tear them down.
 

SW: Watching yourself on film at this point in your career after 5 seasons, when you get to the offseason, is there anything in particular you’re working on to improve?

SH: I constantly get a copy of my practice work throughout the season.  [Specifically,] the one-on-one’s that we do with the DBs throughout the season [and] a few plays here and there that coaches point out that I need to work on in meeting rooms.  I have coach put those on DVDs for me and I take it once the season is over.  So they go back and find all the plays that I need to work on and different things [like] I dropped passes and took my eyes off the ball, didn’t run a good route, didn’t break my hips down, wasn’t in and out of my routes like I was supposed to… different things like that. I take them to the field throughout the offseason and mimic them in my head and when it’s time to run routes.  The little things [I’ve done] to get to this point I continue to do today even six years later.
 

SW: You’ve won the Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP, you’ve routinely been back to the playoffs (3 of 5 season), played in 3 conference championships and you’re only 27.  Many guys would kill for all of that. What keeps you going year in and year out?

SH: It’s the kids. My kids motivate me the most [with] the struggle that I had to go through as a kid.  To prove that every time I step on the field that there’s going to be something different, there’s going to be something special, there’s going to be hard work put into it that makes it look so easy.

My mom couldn’t really be there for me throughout all the times when I was a kid playing little league because she was working and constantly had to take care of my brothers.  I just did it for her.  From having me at a young age, she was cut short from going to college, getting her degree and doing all the things that she wanted to do.  So, I figure I’ll go out and do something for my mom since she went out and did all these things that maybe my brothers didn’t see or didn’t understand as a kid/

Being the first born, I just wanted to be better than everybody else.  I wanted to be better than my dad.  I wanted to be better than my friends… than my uncles.  It took sacrifices and it was hard to gain.  Everybody thinks that it’s so easy to gain, but it’s a lot of hard work: getting up every day and going to work out, going out there and taking hits every week, listening to coaches yell at you [and] curse at you, different players disrespecting you and trying to hurt you and different things like that.

It’s just the excitement that you get for doing something you’ve done for so many years [and] continuously telling myself, “Tone, you’re only 27.  You’ve only been doing this for 20 years.  What’s another 10 to 15 years of doing this?”  I’m always looking forward to doing the little things that make you successful.  I don’t shortcuts and I hate people around me that want to take the shortcuts.  I’m one of those guys that’s willing to go the distance in order to get where I need to be.

Oh yeah… one more thing.  The Hall of Fame is definitely at the top of my list.  It’s the last achievement I want to achieve. It’s right there for me.  I still have a long way to go, but I’m eager to get there.  Whatever it takes to be a Hall of Famer, I’m going to take that long road that it’s going to take to get there.
 

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It’s fantastic to see a guy who’s as well off and successful in the NFL spend his weekends and days with the less privileged in both the US, as well as Africa.  When I looked into Santonio’s site a few months back, I had no idea how many things he was involved in and was shocked that there wasn’t more press on it.  The above just scratches the surface of what he does.
 
Does anyone really believe that it’s “the ball just happens to find” Holmes in those clutch situations?  I certainly don’t.  I think it’s Holmes deflecting credit where it’s due.  Having watched every Jet game, it’s more like Sanchez knowing that Santonio will make a play.  The Jets better not let this guy go as a 2011 free agent, game changers are hard to come by.
 
 
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