I Played Football-Michael Holmes

 

It all started for me in the streets of Akron, Ohio.  We played football in my neighborhood every chance we could get.  It was telephone pole to telephone pole.  Any available field and it was game on.  I was too big to play bantam football or any pee wee football so my real career did not start until 1970 when I was a sophomore at Akron East High.  Since I always played QB I tried out for QB. Very few Black Americans were allowed to play QB in the 1970′s.  Coaches were instructed to move high school QB’s to another position in college.  I received a full scholarship to the University of Michigan in 1972.  Glenn Edward “Bo” Schembechler was my head coach.  I was not prepared for college.  I cannot remember a high school teacher mentoring me in preparation for college.  My parents were lucky if their generation completed high school and they had no idea about college prep or AP classes.  I was the first in my family to go to college. I showed up in Ann Arbor an eighteen year old naive football player.  I  signed up for all the required classes and when I went down to the football building and my coach looked at my transcript he asked, “who do you think you are, Einstein.”  He made me go change most of my classes and I still struggled my first semester.  Actually, I went on probation. My best friends at Michigan all came from similar backgrounds.  Tim Davis (Warren, Oh), Gordon Bell (Troy, Oh), Greg Morton (Akron, Oh), Calvin O’neal (Saginaw, Mi),  Al Wheeler (Cincinnati, Oh), Frank Moore (Detroit, Mi).  Bob Wood (London, Oh), Les Miles (Elyria, Oh) and Don Dufek (Ann Arbor, Mi) Dufek parents were college educated.   Bob Wood was not on scholarship his first 2 years.  This really was an advantage for him because he was focused on school.  He interned at Dow Chemical every summer and was hired by Dow strait out of college.   He later became a Dow executive.  Don Dufek was from Ann Arbor so I believe that it helped to have the home support. My freshman year was the first year freshmen were allowed to play varsity football.  Archie Griffin was the first freshmen star player.  He went on to be the first 2 time Heisman trophy winner at Ohio State.  I played QB and FS on the freshman football team.  The next spring football practice I realized that I was not going to play QB.  Dennis Franklin was the starting  QB and was a junior.  Dave Brown was the starting SS and was an All American.  I had no chance to play either position so I moved to DE on the practice squad.  I spent the whole year learning how to play DE and lifting weights.  I worked up to the 3 DE my junior year and started my senior year. My last game at Michigan was the 1976 Orange Bowl.  It was Michigan vs Oklahoma for the National Championship.  It was my 3rd year playing DE and Michigan was talking to me about a red shirt possibility.  An extra year playing DE would have been helpful for my career.  Michigan did not offer me the red shirt.  They just kindly said goodbye and I was just another senior out the door.  Sad but true.  Once your college career is over, the university needs to get to work with the incoming class.  Your services are no longer needed and the university moves on.  It is not personal but it is a fact. Gordon Bell got drafted by the New York Giants.  Dan Jilek was drafted by the Buffalo Bills.  Calvin Oneal and Greg Morton both got red shirted.  Al Wheeler dropped out of school after his sophomore year and joined the Navy.  Frank Moore was murdered in Detroit at a Christian Revival tent.   Tim Davis was told he was too short to play in the NFL although nobody could block him in college football. Michael Holmes, Tim Davis and  George Przygodski signed on to play for the Pontiac Arrows Semi-pro football team in Pontiac, Mi.  We never practiced and just showed up for the games to collect our checks for $200.  We won the league. I signed a free agent contract to play for the new expansion team Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  My contract was for $25,000.  I was so happy to have my chance to play professional football.  I was working hard ever day.  Bud Ashley the GM at College Dodge in Ann Arbor offered me a job selling cars with the opportunity to continue training for the Buccaneers.  I took the job. One day a Saudi Prince came into the dealership and we met and became close friends.  I explained to Prince Khaled that my dream was to play in the NFL and I had signed a contract to play for  Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He ordered a custom van from me that I sold to him for $14,000.  My commission was $2500.  That was an amazing commission in those days.  He traded in his new 1976 Jaquar XJS which was worth $20,000.  We gave him $14,000.  It was the biggest commission I ever earned. Prince Khaled invited me to his cousins house for a party and I met him there.  He introduced me to 3 of his cousins and I had the best time. The Prince’s house was the most beautiful house I had ever seen.  It had an indoor swimming pool.  After hanging out with the Princes I was quickly getting out of game shape.  Prince Khaled asked me to think about working for them because they would go back to Saudi after school and start their business.  They asked me to travel with them to Europe on a stopover on their way home to Saudi Arabia for the summer.  I said ok because I had always dreamed of going to Europe.  I had never flown on a plane unless it was to a Michigan football game. We flew first class from Detroit to London.  I was drinking Champagne all the way.  We touched down at Heathrow airport and a private car picked us up at the 747 on the tarmac and took us to the VIP lounge where customs agents stamped our passports.  We took a Rolls Royce to the Dorchester Hotel.  I was in awe.  I had never seen anything like this before.  We enjoyed London for a week then took a lear jet to Nice, France.  We checked into the Negresco Hotel and I quickly discovered that tops were optional at the beaches in the south of France. Wow!  We took a limo to Monte Carlo and did some gambling.  After one week, the Princes went home to Saudi Arabia and I returned to Ann Arbor.  He gave me the van.  I named it the Blue Falcon.   Mo Pads in Detroit customized it.  When we first met I asked Prince Khaled what was his hobby in Saudi Arabia and he told me he was a  falconer.   I took that information and had Mo Pads air brush a falcon swooping down into the desert on both sides of this powder blue van.  I put 2 dark blue tear drop windows in the back panels at the end of he air brush.   It was a show piece and now it was mine. I decided to work for the Prince and I never showed up in Tampa for rookie camp.  I was hooked on the good life.  It was truly a life of Royalty. Everywhere we went, everything we did it was all first class.  One day there was a terrible snow storm in Ann Arbor.  The Prince and I went outside and we could not find our cars.  He looked at me and said “Mike lets move to California.”  I said OK.  We moved to La Jolla, Ca. I met and  married Katina Panos in La Jolla and Alex Holmes was born in 1981.  He entered La Jolla High as a 14 year old freshman and went out for football for the first time.  He had dominated in basketball and baseball up to start of high school.   The CIF had a rule that you must be 15 to play varsity football.  They have since changed that rule.   Alex was good enough to play varsity but by rule he was  ineligible.  He was forced to play La Jolla JV football. The La Jolla varsity was an OK football team but the JV was not very good.  Alex didn’t learn much.  The principal Mr. Tarvin who was in his last year of a 25 year career as La Jolla High principal asked my wife and I for a meeting in his office  along with Dana Shellburne the vice principal.   He told us that he had been watching Alex and thought he was a special student athlete.  He suggested that we have Alex appeal to the CIF for a 5th year of high school eligibility so that he could get get in his right age group.  We asked Alex and he agreed.  Alex was a strait A student but he had a severe illness in the 8th grade and missed many weeks of school which caused him academic problems.  He still placed in the top 1% in the world in Latin 3 years in a row. Now Alex was returning to La Jolla High as a 9th grader again but assuming the CIF was not going to rule in his favor, he took all new classes so that he could graduate after his junior year should the CIF rule against him.  Alex was now taking Greek instead of Latin and was on course to take his math class at UCSD his senior year.  As his parents, we were thinking he could be a Rhodes Scholar. Alex dominated San Diego football as a freshman.  He played tight end and nose tackle.  In the first game of the season against Mission Bay High he caught a 5 yard pass and dragged the entire Mission Bay team for a 15 yard gain.  The entire stadium let loose a sounding ohh!  We just knew that Alex was going to have a great season at tight end.  He never was thrown the ball again the rest of the season.  I did not understand. He dominated at nose tackle as he could not be blocked.  He started on the basketball team and then set the freshman record in the discuss and shot put.  He was rolling.  Two weeks before the school year ended the new principal Shellburne contacted Alex and told him that he decided that Alex was no longer a freshman but was now a sophomore.   We did not understand and we were furious.   I went down to the school to find out what was going on.  I first went to the head football coach  Dick Huddleston and asked for his support.  He told me that he agreed with the principal.  I reminded him that Alex was not bused into La Jolla high and he was born in La Jolla and lived in the nieghborhood.   To my surprise I could not get his support.  I right away thought about Alex never seeing another pass after thrilling the crowd with his brusing catch and run the first game of the season.  Now, the school was pouring gasoline on my fire.  I went to Shellburne and he told me his mind was made up with no explanation.   I reminded him he was in the room when principal Tarvin proposed the idea of Alex repeating the 9th grade.  He did not seem to care and  I was furious.  I didn’t want to play the race card but that was the only thing that made sense.  Either that or there was something between Tarvin and Shellburne.   Why would La Jolla High not want to get credit for producing such an unusual student/athlete?   He was Mr. Tarvin’s own personal project and the new principal was changing the game for no apparent reason.  We were preparing for the CIF to deny Alex but not La Jolla High.  Why not leave it to CIF so we could make our case? We now had no case. I called my friend Brian Taylor who headed admissions at Harvard Westlake in Studio City, Ca.  Brian was a friend from La Jolla who used to play basketball for the San Diego Clippers.  Brian, Sidney Wicks, Randy Smith and Joe Bryant all played for the Clippers and lived in La Jolla. We used to hang out and our kids played together.  Brian suggested I bring Alex down to the Harvard Westlake to take the entrance exam and meet the football coach.  Alex passed the exam and was admitted into Harvard Westlake.  Harvard Westlake was considered by some to be the best academic high school west of the Mississippi.  Harvard Westlake was located in the valley and 2 hours drive from La Jolla. They sure were not known for their football team.  Two years prior to Alex arrival they had two seven foot twins Jason and Jarron Collins both of whom attended Stanford and still play in the NBA.  Of course, they won the CIF state championship in basketball.  Now Alex Holmes was about to bring that same recognition to the football team. My job took me to the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills and I took my entire family with me.  The 5 of us lived in a suite at the Beverly Hilton for 9 months.  My wife and I looked for a house to buy everyday.  We owned our home in La Jolla and rented it out so we could buy another home.  We found a 7000 sq ft home in Sherman Oaks with a swimming pool and a tennis court.  We did not have a problem renting our home but moving from La Jolla to Sherman Oaks was a huge transition. Alex, Theodora and Khaled all started school while we lived in the hotel. Alex started school at Harvard Westlake.  Theodora started her freshman year at Beverly Hills High and Khaled started 4th grade at El Rodeo Elementary school.  The kids really enjoyed living in the hotel.  After we closed escrow in Sherman Oaks, Theodora and Khaled had to change schools 2nd semester. Harvard Westlake agreed to petition the CIF on Alex’s behalf.  As parents, we thought the CIF would consider the petition on academic grounds because Harvard Westlake was not a football powerhouse and we were thinking Rhodes Scholar.   Alex went on to be the Los Angeles Times Offensive Player of the Year and the CIF ruled against him after his junior year.  He decided to attend his senior year of high school and not play any sports. It was a confusing junior year for Alex  because legally coaches could not recruit Alex him.  He was in limbo along with the coaches.  Every school in the country offered him a scholarship and I mean every school in the country.   I personally told Bo Schembechler that Alex was going to Michigan.  I went back to Michigan for Bo’s Boys 30 year reunion.  There were 500 ex Michigan football players gathered to honor Bo and I was the only one who had a son being recruited by Michigan.  I was honored when Coach Jerry Hanlon took the microphone and told every football player in the building to come up to me and make sure  my son Alex chooses  Michigan.  I was on the spot.  I was in a room with a Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson and NFL Monday Night football host Dan Dierdorf ,  the future CEO of Dominos Dave Brandon and current AD at Michigan and many other noted Michigan alumni.  By the way, Dave Brandon and I played DE at Michigan.   Alex had made me the most proud Michigan man in the entire room.  I was so honored.  Everyone in that room was instructed to contact personally and ask me about Alex.  Dan Dierdorf said to me “I don’t know who you son is but he must be really good.”   I got phone calls from Les Miles my team mate who was coaching TE’s with the Dallas Cowboys now head coach at LSU and Dave Brown the original Seattle Seahawk.  Dr. Kirk Lewis called me from Idaho.   Everybody who knew me was calling me asking about Alex. Decision time came and Alex as a 18 year old told me “Dad, I was born and raised in Southern California, I want to go to school here and I want to start my business here, I need to go to USC.”

Holmes Polamalu Championship Rings

Championship Rings earned by Michael, Alex and Khaled Holmes. 2 Super Bowl Rings earned by Troy Polamalu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.mghinc.com  http://storify.com/mghinc

 

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