When it comes to the game of football, Giants fourth-round draft pick Darnay Holmes tends to view things in black and white.
That is, the black and white of a chessboard, a game that Holmes took up at UCLA only to find that the game forces on to look at each move, each scenario with a more discerning eye if they are to end up the victor.
“The reason I play chess is I want to have efficient thoughts. I want to make sure I am making forceful moves, and I want to make sure everybody responds to things that I do,” Holmes explained during a conference call with reporters after the Giants drafted him.
Coaches will sometimes refer to players who are versatile enough to provide multiple options as “chess pieces,” but Holmes said he sees himself as much more than just a chess piece.
“I’m a player. I’m going to make sure the team is working accordingly, and we’re all on one accord,” he said.
The son of one-time NFL running back Darick Holmes, who played five seasons for the Bills, Holmes said he drew some inspiration from lessons his father taught him.
“My pops impacted me in a lot of ways,” Holmes said. “He was a person who installed that hustler drive--That drive to compete each and every day, knowing that there is somebody out there working to take your spot or working to be better than you.
“Each and every day, he always told me that you never compromise your grind or compromise the good habits you have for something that will not allow you to propel you forward to your full potential. He always made sure that you can’t take any shortcuts. If you take shortcuts, when the time comes and you reach that destination, there’s lessons that you did not learn. The downfall is going to be harder than the come up.”
Holmes’ dad also impacted him in another way he likely never saw coming. When Holmes was 12 years old, he walked into a hospital room to see his father in a hospital bed after having been shot seven times in a botched drug deal.
While that sight could have emotionally scarred the young man for life, Holmes instead summoned some newfound inner strength that perhaps he didn’t know he had and used that to ensure that he would go on to become a productive person.
“I know those days, and those experiences molded me into a better person, a better man,” Holmes said. “It molded my spirit to be someone that’s ready to transition and transform within every phase of my life.”
Holmes has done just that. With his thirst for knowledge, he set about charting an accelerated curriculum at UCLA from which he graduated in two and a half years.
“I had to make that choice. If I hadn't made that choice, I would probably still be an undergraduate. So, I made that choice right away that I had to get my degree and break that barrier within my family, being the first person in my family to get that degree at a prestigious college. (It) allowed them to know that we have so much greatness within ourselves, let’s go chase that and manifest that,” Holmes said.
To graduate early requires incredible discipline and attention to detail, things that NFL players are required to exhibit. Holmes believes that his college experience has set him up to chase that kind of success.
“Yes, definitely, the school curriculum allowed me to implement a strict routine, a routine that allowed me not to sway away into different distractions,” he said.
“So, by having this vivid vision, my energy was aligning to it right away.”
He was asked how that discipline has applied to football, which at the NFL level can entail more complex playbooks.
“You have different tactics that you use to grasp concepts and grasp schemes and make sure that you understand those things,” Holmes explained.
“I don’t memorize; I want to grasp it and understand, so I’ll be able to tap into it no matter what the heat of the moment is. I’ll understand it, so I’ll be able to utilize it.”
Now with the Giants, the aspiring young chess master knows he’ll have to bide his time to get up to speed with what is expected from him.
“My thing is to just be a sponge,” he said. “DeAndre (Baker) is there a year before me, so he learned more things than I have learned. I’m going to get under his wing and try to contribute in every phase. I’m going to be an asset; I’m not going to be a liability. I’m just going to play my part and maximize my role, for sure.”
Although Holmes, like the rest of the Giants rookies, isn’t sure when he’ll be able to get on the field with the Giants, he is ready to engage in the online virtual learning that is set to begin for the rookies this week.
“The key to learning that way is understanding that you can’t lollygag. You can’t put things to the side because at the end of the day, it’s on your own time,” he said.
“In this life we’re living, you do things on your own time. At the end of the day, if you have a strict routine, you can never be swayed off to different distractions or different things that will hinder you from accomplishing the main goal, which is being a great contributor to the team.”