Living the dream
At the root of it all, one thing is clear for Eagle Point’s Tyrone Holmes and you won’t find him straying from that theme anytime soon.
“I’m very blessed to be in the position that I am,” said Holmes.
And deservedly so.
The 23-year-old Holmes is living out the dream of many who have donned a football helmet and pads at some point in their lives, and he’s determined to continue to make the most of his opportunity.
On Wednesday, the 2012 Eagle Point High graduate will report to his first full training camp with the Cleveland Browns in Berea, Ohio.
“I’m excited,” said Holmes, who has been in Phoenix, Arizona, ramping up his conditioning the past few weeks. “It’s going into my second year now and I’ve actually had an offseason and know what to expect going into this year so I’m definitely ready to go.”
After being one of the last cuts by the Jacksonville Jaguars one year ago, Holmes was quickly scooped up by the Browns and spent the 2016 season contributing in any way he could as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end who also played special teams on kickoff and kick return.
Holmes bounced between the active and non-active roster but in 11 games was still able to compile six tackles and one sack as a rookie. In the second quarter Sept. 25 against Miami, he pressured and hit quarterback Ryan Tannehill when releasing the ball, resulting in a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown. One month later, he posted three tackles and his first career sack against the New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“It was a good first year and introductory year,” said Holmes, “but now I’ve got to kick it up and progress. I was able to play and gain some experience but I was off and on being active and inactive so that’s a little bit more motivation to make sure that first, I make the team, and, second, I’m active every game this year.”
Once the season was complete last year, Holmes stayed back in Ohio and worked diligently with the Browns’ strength and conditioning coaches and put on 15 pounds to complement an already athletic frame that saw him excel in football, basketball and track and field at Eagle Point High.
“That was really good to be around the facility and those coaches,” said the 6-foot-2, 260-pounder. “I think that was really beneficial for me.”
Another benefit for Holmes is that he can carry a “been there, done that” mentality into this training camp, and the confidence that comes from that.
“I’ve had a whole year of practicing against NFL caliber players and going against them,” he said. “I’ve played an NFL defense and in NFL games so I just have a lot more experience and I guess I just know more of what to expect going into Year 2 as opposed to Year 1 coming from the (Big Sky Conference).”
“Your mental approach and confidence is huge in the game of football,” added Holmes. “You want to believe you’re good enough but you still have those doubts coming out of college and that’s different in Year 2. I know I can do this, I’ve done it, I’ve played against NFL guys and I belong.”
Holmes said he definitely had to alter his approach to the game last year, acclimating himself to outside linebacker and dropping back in coverage as well as learning what does and does not work as a pass rusher at the elite level.
“It’s kind of the little things, knowing what you can get away with and what you can’t,” said Holmes. “Stuff that works on guys in college isn’t going to work on guys here in the NFL. You have to be more disciplined and technique-oriented, moving your body a little different and working on how to utilize your strengths.”
Cleveland rearranged its defensive staff in the offseason, bringing in coordinator Gregg Williams and line coach Clyde Simmons among others. The Browns also invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball, most notably in former Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick and Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers with the 25th overall selection.
“Our defensive staff is awesome,” said Holmes, who has been told he will be used in his more natural defensive end role this season. “They’re really good and really knowledgeable so I’m excited for what’s to come. It’s an exciting team. We have a ton of young dudes and so many guys in their first and second year of football and everyone’s just hungry and willing to get better and that’s cool to be a part of. You can just feel the energy at practices and going through OTAs, I think it’s going to be a cool deal once we get going here.”
As for his own spot, Holmes said he doesn’t pay much attention to the depth chart. Instead, his focus is on doing all he can to prove his worth as a versatile defensive end.
“I honestly try not to pay too much attention to all that,” he said. “I know I’m one of the 90 guys getting invited to camp and if I take care of what I need to, I’ll be on the roster. That’s just my mentality. I’ve just got to focus every day on becoming the best football player I can be and then things will take care of themselves.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry