The Greatest Runningback Chiefs Kingdom Has Ever Known


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I know full well that the title of the article might’ve conjured up the image of Jamaal Charles’ smiling face, but in an effort to avoid confusion, that’s not who I’m referring to. No my friends, today I’m here to fawn over another runningback in the annals of franchise history. It’s a horribly kept secret that I’m a “Stan” (Marshall Mathers’ deranged, letter-writing fan) for Priest Holmes. In the vein of full disclosure he is, by far and away, my favorite Chiefs’ player of all-time.

Over the weekend, at the 101 Awards Banquet, Priest Holmes was announced as the 44th player to be inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame. Holmes’ official induction will take place over Chiefs Alumni Weekend early next season. Chiefs Chairman and CEO had this to say about honoring Holmes on Saturday night: 

It is an honor to announce the induction of Priest Holmes into the Chiefs Hall of Fame. On behalf of my family and the entire Chiefs organization I would like to congratulate Priest on a remarkable career. As the Chiefs franchise all-time leader in rushing yards, total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns, Priest set the standard for excellence on and off the field over his seven seasons in Kansas City. We are grateful for his contributions to the team and the community.

Hunt made a clear statement about the value of Priest Holmes’ contributions to the organization, but not even he could’ve predicted what Holmes would become when he was signed in 2001. In fact, I think he continued to be an unknown commodity until the third game of the regular season that year. Over the first two games of the 2001 season, he touched the ball just 19 times. It wasn’t until Kansas City’s first road game that offensive coordinator Al Saunders really began to call his number. That late-September matchup with the Washington Redskins would prove to be a fateful day for Holmes.

PH1

The magic began that very afternoon. Priest Holmes erupted for three scores in the final 7 minutes of the second quarter. His coming out party helped Kansas City widen its lead to 18 points by halftime (28-10, Chiefs). By day’s end, Holmes had amassed 147 rushing yards, 78 receiving yards, and 3 offensive touchdowns. The team went on to win their first game of the season. It also became clear that he would be a key cog in the wheel of one of the best offensive stretches in the history of the franchise.

That game proved to be an epiphany for Dick Vermeil and Al Saunders. They’d stumbled upon perhaps one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league. Holmes finished the season with the NFL rushing title (he posted 1,555 rushing yards in 2001). He also caught 62 balls for 614 receiving yards (bringing his yards-from-scrimmage total to 2,169 yards). Sprinkle in 10 offensive touchdowns and Holmes quickly drew comparisons to eventual AP Offensive Player of the Year Marshall Faulk.

During Holmes’ six-year tenure with Kansas City he scampered for 6,070 rushing yards (a franchise record). He also scored a total of 76 rushing touchdowns (another franchise record). Over those six years, he scored 83 touchdowns in all (yet another franchise record). Allow me to put that into perspective for you. Those 83 touchdowns in Kansas City exceed the career touchdown totals of the following:

  1. Frank Gifford
  2. Steve Van Buren
  3. Fred Biletnikoff
  4. Bob Hayes
  5. James Lofton
  6. O.J. Simpson
  7. Earl Campbell
  8. Ollie Matson
  9. Raymond Berry
  10. Larry Csonka
  11. Art Monk
  12. Elroy Hirsch
  13. Michael Irvin
  14. Charlie Joiner
  15. John Stallworth

Bear in mind that the aforementioned players are all enshrined in Canton, but that still may not paint a clear enough picture. Most of those players on that list are from bygone generations of professional football. Holmes also had more touchdowns between 2001-2007 than: Clinton Portis, Terry Allen, Ahman Green, Torry Holt, Fred Taylor, Ricky Williams, Brian Westbrook, Thomas Jones, Rod Smith, Chad Johnson, Keyshawn Johnson, and Terrell Davis had in their careers. He’s 23rd on the all-time list for career touchdowns and retired as one of the most prolific scorers ever to play in the NFL.

2004 NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs

I’m sure there are those who’ll take exception to my favoring Holmes over Charles. He needs only 248 rushing yards to become the franchise’s new all-time leading rusher. Barring injury, Charles should surpass Holmes before he’s officially enshrined at Arrowhead Stadium. Some of AA’s older readers might even object to him being mentioned ahead of Christian Okoye and Ed Podolak. For my money though, Priest Holmes is the most complete back to ever don the ketchup and colored-uniform. Forget the franchise. He might be one of the most versatile runningbacks I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching on any team.

Some will discredit Holmes because of the dominant offensive line Kansas City had in the the early-00′s. Those fans make a legitimate point about why he might not be the franchise’s high-watermark at the position. While he was fortunate to play behind such a stellar line, Holmes was the league’s rushing champion in 2001 while they were still blossoming. Brian Waters was in his first season as a starter. He made his first career start, in place of an injured Casey Wiegmann, at center. Willie Roaf didn’t join the team until the following year. They hadn’t yet matured into the group we all remember.

People tend to forget that Priest Holmes set up his blocks as well as any halfback in the league at the time. Holmes wasn’t the most athletic player, but he made up for it with football IQ, great field vision, his ability to make people miss, and patience. He was a smart runner who always found a way to fall forward and gain extra yardage. Those intangibles were just as vital to his success as dominant offensive line play. 

PH3

Despite all of his career accomplishments, I was most proud of what he did in 2007. After more than a year away from the NFL due to serious injuries to his head and neck in 2005, he made one of the most unlikely comebacks in NFL history. His return to the league was short-lived, but seeing him train and get himself back onto the field despite daunting physical challenges was awe-inspiring. Over those 4 games, he gained 137 of the toughest rushing yards ever earned on the NFL gridiron. That told me everything I ever needed to know about toughness, leadership, and heart in the NFL, and it cemented his legacy in my mind.

I’m honored to have witnessed Priest’s glory days in Kansas City. Had his career not been cut short by injury, he might’ve made a case for the NFL’s Hall of Fame. If he’d crossed the 10,000-yard rushing mark, I think he’d warrant serious consideration. As it stands, he’ll go down as one of the three best runningbacks to play for the Kansas City Chiefs and be immortalized at One Arrowhead Drive. I, for one, couldn’t be happier about that fact. 

What say you, Addicts? Is this a well-deserved honor for Holmes? Is he the franchise’s best runningback of all-time? Might he have made it to Canton if he’d avoided injury for another two or three seasons? Use the comment section below to weigh in. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!

Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • berttheclock

    Fortunately, for all of us, you never went so far as the fictitious “Stan” character, but, it is very hard to disagree with any of your points concerning the great, former blocker, turned runner. Great runners do know how to use their blockers. As a former blocking back, he really learned how to read holes.

  • Natasha Sims

    I’ve always loved Priest Holmes. Your piece was on point, especially the part about his gutsy comeback. I think you did miss an opportunity to highlight his red zone rushing. Was there anyone better at getting the ball across the goal line? How many times did we see the Chiefs at the 1-yard line and then see him catapult over the opposing defense into the end zone? I could watch that on replay all day. In fact …

    • berttheclock

      I believe both Holmes and Marcus Allen were two of the best in short yardage. In fact, there was, also, a similarity between the two of them in how they lined up holes and then knew when to explode into and through them. But, seeing Marcus take his over the top Sam “Bam” Cunningham approach was a delight. Smash mouth football at its very best.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      I could’ve written another 1,200 words about Holmes, but it might’ve reached a terrifying level of standom. I tend to agree though, Natasha. That Superman leap over the pile and into the end zone never got old.

  • freshmeat62

    I too am a big Priest Holmes fan, but to me Marcus Allen is the best to wear a Chiefs uniform, even though he was at the end of his career. He would run into a mountain of humanity, and somehow come out the other side, like the moles in my yard.

    Holmes was great at reading blocks, and start his run thru the line before the hole opened up, and usually it would suddenly open up.

    But I think Charles will be considered the greatest in a year or 2. He shows a lot of the same traits as Holmes in reading blocks, and then putting on burst that shoots him thru the line. And Charles hasn’t had the benefit of a great line, in fact, I think it can be said that he has been running behind one of the worst lines in Chiefs history, although they did start to improve the 2nd half of last season.

    • Brian Dempsey

      I concur. Priest was terrific, Marcus was an all-time great, and I can’t help but wonder what Charles would have done behind that O-Line the Chiefs had from 2002-2005 that not only had blocking FB Tony Richardson, but the very much unsung, but very valuable Jason Dunn as a blocking TE. Charles would have really tore it up.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Charles still has quite a ways to go in my mind. Surpassing Holmes in the yardage category won’t be enough for me. If he can continue to find paydirt like he did in 2013 though? Look out!

  • mattU

    Nothing against Holmes, but he had one of the best offensive lines ever assembled (Roaf, Waters, Weigman, Shields, Tate [2002&2003]) and arguably the best blocking FB of the past 20 years paving the way for him. I honestly think Charles would have a couple 2,000 rushing yard seasons under his belt already if he had the same number of carries behind the line Holmes had.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      He won the rushing title before Roaf got there. Waters was just on his second season as a guard. That unit hadn’t come together when he led the league in rushing. I think we tend to give far too much credit to line play and not enough to how brilliantly he used that line.

      • berttheclock

        I don’t want to leave the impression I may have sold him short as a RB by mentioning his blocking in college. That was really only due to him suffering an injury and Ricky Williams ending up starting ahead of him. His record at UT for rushing was 1,276 yards, with 20 TDs and a 5.1 yards per carry. With the Ravens, he, once, had a two hundred rushing yard day. But, have you read, he, really, developed his style playing street ball and trying to emulate Tony Dorsett?

  • Tom McLaren

    Priest Holmes definitely was one of the finer Chiefs running backs, I have decided to forgive you as you mentioned the great one in your article, Ed Podalak. I can’t imagine someone using anymore of their god given ability to the maximum than what “steady Eddie” did. Let it be said that choosing just one would be incredibly tough.

    • berttheclock

      The Iowa contingent at D’s Bar in Portland, OR, are standing at attention and giving you “High Fives”. Dennis and his mother are leading the raves.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Podolak was a jack of all trades. He was adept at catching the football out of the backfield.

  • Tristian

    One of my all time favorite players period. I loved watching the priest dance through the end zone over 60 times. I wasn’t a chiefs fan but I loved this dude. People shouldn’t forget the beast of an online they had either. Very close to the Cowboys of the 90s line. But man every time in the red zone itd be a screen to holmes and he glided into the end zone. Man! Gotta go watch some Priest Holmes highlights! Go chiefs!

  • Priest4Prez

    Stacy, I was waiting for you to write one up about my boy Priest!! It’s the leap over the Chicago Bears for touchdown number 27, the way he watched the line move and pick his spots; a man who had mastered his respective craft. The comeback pulled at the heart strings and watching Larry take his spot felt wrong in so many ways. He’s number one in my book for how he carried himself, his representing the Chiefs so well, and for his determination to come back. This honor is most certainly deserved and is a bit late, but better late then never.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      The man was brilliant. Wish I’d met him.

  • calciomoti

    NFL HOF top 25 scoring (non kicking) of all time…warrants HOF.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Sadly, I don’t think he’ll get there. I think he needed 10,000 rushing yards and 100 TD’s. Or a ring…

      • calciomoti

        Maybe he will get the senior induction when were old. I don’t know, but I do believe that he belongs there.

        • Stacy D. Smith

          That would be nice. Runningback’s become a tough position to make it to Canton from though. We’ll see.

          • calciomoti

            Indeed, very difficult to make hof as a RB. I know he didn’t get 10k yards, but rbs are supposed to score too, and he did that in bunches! You say you’re a stan of Priest…so am I, my 4th child (2nd son) was pre-named before birth as Priest Anthony Hinde…but he didn’t happen, instead I got my 3rd daughter Genevieve Isabella (arguably my favorite child) I know I love them all equally, but I read once that Priest had the prayer of Jabez over his locker, and I prayed that over Genevieve all the time before she was born, I was so sure she was a he, and I would use the name Priest in every prayer…I was shocked when she came out. I believe that had something to do with her uniqueness amongst my children (who are all diehard Chiefs fans)!

          • Stacy D. Smith

            That’s awesome! Charles reminded me of Holmes a bit in 2013. He just had a nose for the end zone all throughout the season. I hope that trend continues.

          • calciomoti

            Same across all Chiefs Nation! He did remind me of Holmes this past season, his vision has increased exponentially!!! Funny thing about both these longhorns, I watched them throughout college shredding my Huskers…. I didn’t cheer for them then, but I sure do now!

  • Stan Colbert

    The Chiefs have aalways been fortunate with running backs! Hard to believe Priest was basically a castoff from Baltimore. Watching him run, especially behind that line was a sight! I think JC will eclipse Priest in the near future and with Reid be longer lasting, though will not be as dominating as the Priest!

    • berttheclock

      Yes, fortunate for several, but, do not forget Joe Delaney and Mack Lee Hill. Delaney was lost at a far too young of age when he drowned and Hill died on the operating table.

      But, I remember Mike Garrett, Curtis McClinton, Bert Coan, Okoye and his running partner of short time fame with the Chiefs. Of course, even older folks remember the great RB from the Dallas Texans days. Been a long run of very hard hitting RBs.

  • FaAmos

    Priest was around in like the second glory days of my Chiefs can hood as a child to adult, The Xfactor was running every kickoff back for a TD and Priest was the best at what he did in the late ’90′s and early 2,000′s and before that my best Chiefs glory days ended with Derrick Thomas dying in a car crash and Neil Smith going to Denver ended that era real fast. Funny this year we went 9-0 just as we did with Trent Green and Priest in 2K I think and the similarities were almost to close to be true. Dante Hall ran back nine kicks, are defense intercepted and recovered fumbles all the time for nine straight games and then we go 2-5 in our last 7 games, played the Colts and neither team forced a punt but the most reliable kicker we’ve had since missed a FG and Payton ran up and down the field as well as ewe did but Morton Anderson missed a FG and that’s why we didn’t win a playoff game at home. This season we went 9-0 w/ a turnover ratio of like plus 14.5 because we scored in all aspects of the game. Punts, kicks offs, pick sixes, and fumble recoveries. Again game ten comes and we lose. Can’t get too upset I think that game was in Denver and we played them hard but wasn’t our day but I read the schedule before the season and said we could easily lose these three games in a row, At Denver, vs. Chargers, vs. Denver and 9-0 went to 9-3 real fast. We would have beat the Chargers at home if Tamba Hali and J Houston didn’t leave injured and DE Mike Devito was already out. Chargers had like 50 total yards before Hali and Houston go down and then score 38pts in a half to take the lead and the win. Again we play Indy in the playoffs. Hali showed up but was hobbling so bad he should have just sat out that one. Jamal Charles out in 1st qtr, no J Houston, no Brandon Carr, I even thing Derrrick Johnson had to leave the game and we blew a 38pt. lead in a half but you can’t pressure the QB and already down to third string CB’s a QB like Luck will eat you alive and he and TY Hilton killed us and as for every game Sean Smith allows a Receiver to get over top for a forty plus TD, he allowed one every game but this game he allowed two and Kendrick Lewis are free safety and last line of defense can’t see what’s up and go break up the pass. He’s gotta go, trading up for Moeaki when Jimmy Graham I would have bet my first child that any we traded up was to get Graham and Pioli takes I kid that never finished an entire 12 game college season due to always getting injured, Hello ! Clue!!! So I still have nightmares over that. Taking Jon Baldwin made my stomach hurt. Phill Taylor was their for us at are original spot but trading back was smart but trade back and have taken CB Jimmy Smith a bigger 6’2 CB strong enough for these bigger receivers. But no we take the player that even his head coach came out and said he’s lazy, a baby and doesn’t have what it takes so your an idiot if you draft him. He just relied on his athleticism through school but NFL you don’t show up and if you drop more balls than Mr. Drop himself D Bowe then you need a position change. Trading back for Baldwin got us another 3rd round we used on J Houston but we traded back but took the wrong player. Just think if we traded Brandon Flowers who’s a little or was a littler better than Brandon Carr but Carr was always available and didn’t get hurt plus we had a big 6’2 22lb CB in Jimmy Smith who’s way better than he’s credited for so we wouldn’t have had to pay Sean Smith who isn’t very good all that money and watch him get beat over top at least once a game, I think Eric Decker did it four times to him in one game so we’d have Brandon Carr who I love and Jimmy Smith one of the best in the game and if we got lucky and Flowers reconstructed his contract we could have used him in the slot due to all teams running three and four receiver sets. Oh and did what I thought was 100% for sure going to happen once I saw Pioli trade back into the 3rd round, Tony G is gone so we need one and Graham had fallen to us and we take Moeaki an injury prone athletic waste so we used two picks on Moeakis instead of listening to everyone screaming Jimmy Graham, 3inches taller 30lbs heavier, faster 40 time and catches everhthing and did not get injured and couldn’t finish a single season of college ball. Thank God Pioli’s gone,’he’s done some good but passed on obvious game changing moves. His first move was a 3-4 DE which was a reach at third overall but put him alongside two 4-3 DT’s not even nearly suited to play the 3-4 and go from the 4-3 going against guards and centers to all of a sudden going against 6’6 OT’s with arm lengths twice the length of these DT’s and everyone blamed Tyson Jackson. First not his fault he was reached for and most important all the opponents OL’s would do is double TY Jackson and just laugh at are wanna be NT and a player I feel sorry for in Glenn Dorsey who I know if he’d just sign a one year deal to a team that runs a 4-3 and has a good D-line coach that Dorsey could be all he was hyped to be but square pegs don’t fit in round holes. Funny how all of a sudden we get a beast NT and sign a free agent veteran 3-4 DE that Tyson Jackson all of a sudden started playing 100times better. We’d have been better of taking Orakpo as a rush linebacker or the NT that Green Bay drafted who made the pro bowl as a rookie. Now I’m glad we got our NT over him so it worked out but now Derrick Johnson, Hali, and other key players are in their 30′s so their window was wasted because Pioli actually thought he was making decisions in New England when in fact it was just Bill letting Pioli think he’s made the decision Bill BillyCheck just made Pioli feel he was making decisions and Pioli was so stupid he though he could fix KC’s problems and passed on numerous QB’s which you must have if you want to win even a playoff game. Thank goodness he’s long gone. Dorsey is a good GM but WTF was he thinking making Bowe a top five paid WR when he’s lost us games dropping balls in the endzone or on third downs. He catches circus stuff but if its right at his numbers he just turns up field without catching the ball or drops and easy over the top red zone TD pass. Now we have no money and no one would take Bowes contract but we need Bowe just change his contract, same amount of money as long as he catches 80Balls and loses money every drop so a very incentive laden contract and he doesn’t agree to it and admit he’s as best a top 30 WR then let him walk and take the hit of try and trade him to the Jags worst team in league in agreement that we’ll still pay part of his contract so the Jags get him at a good price and we take their second rounder this season and were paying for a part of a contract we don’t own but it saves about 25mill in cap space giving us around 30mill and with Houton and others ready to be paid I’m afraid were going to get worse before we get better. Can’t lose all your talent and not even get a draft pick other than a league given constilation pick.

  • Jim Harper

    You never know Stacy. After all Sayers made it to the hall with a short career so it is possible, but it has been getting harder and harder for qualified players to make it in. It is a much bigger league than when the Hall was originally started. They should increase the number of inductees for each year accordingly