The Greatest Runningback Chiefs Kingdom Has Ever Known


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.

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.

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. 

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!