Hard Work, Intelligence, and Chess: Darnay Holmes is a Late Round Gem

By the time the fourth round of the NFL Draft rolls around, most people are already tuned out, thinking that these players will never see the light of day. If I don’t see them playing on Sundays, they must not even exist at all.

In reality, the fourth round of the NFL Draft has been home to players who have gone on to become household names, while having illustrious, successful careers. Jared Allen went on to be a hall of famer, Darren Sproles inspired a generation of undersized athletes, and Dak Prescott is about to become the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. All starting from the dreaded fourth round.

In this year’s fourth round, the New York Giants found their gem in UCLA defensive back, Darnay Holmes.

UCLA defensive back Darnay Holmes (1) intercepts a pass from Southern California quarterback JT Daniels during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“He’s really at the top of it, just the way he came in and took over the room. He’s one of the hardest working players that I’ve evaluated in my career” said Giants director of college scouting, Chris Petit. “All of the stuff that I’ve gotten back and all of the positive qualities about him. I’m really excited about what he’s going to bring to our team”.

Petit has been with the Giants for thirteen years, watching players like Odell Beckham Jr, Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones go through the draft process. He knows what a hard worker looks like, he knows Holmes is the real deal.

It’s not just the football field for Holmes either, he finished his degree in less than three years, all while playing football at a high level for former Eagles and 49ers coach, Chip Kelly.

“Truthfully, I just mapped it out and executed my goal,” Holmes said of his extraordinary accomplishment. “I’m not keeping track of if it’s a record or if it’s an accolade. It’s just something I set out and I did what I had to do to get that degree.”

When he was introduced, hard work and intelligence are two of the main things Giants coach Joe Judge stressed about wanting in his players. Hard work and intelligence are Darnay Holmes’ middle names.

Holmes is a model player off the field, but his on the field play isn’t too shabby either. He was one of the best defensive backs in the PAC-12, starting 33 of the 35 games he played in, finishing his career with eight interceptions and two touchdowns in the pass-happy conference.

CORRECTS MONTH TO SEPTEMBER INSTEAD OF OCTOBER – UCLA defensive back Darnay Holmes drops back in coverage against Arizona in the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

One of the ways Holmes tries to stay one step ahead of his competition is by playing chess. In the past, the game was reserved for quarterbacks, to help speed up their decision making abilities. Holmes saw it as a way to gain a competitive advantage, working on his brain to help his play on the field.

“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”, said the newest Giant. “Everything I’m doing, I’m not a piece, I’m a player. I’m going to make sure the team is working accordingly and we’re all on one accord. Chess is a great thing for me to get my mind off of football but also get my mind in the state of being efficient in everything I do.”

Holmes is a player who gets it. He wants to succeed as much as he wants to breathe. He could make it strictly on athletic ability, but he knows there’s much more to being great than that. He doesn’t just want to be successful, he wants to inspire generations of his family, his friends, and his fans.

“Being there for my teammates and giving everything I can, every snap I can? Injured or not? That’s a life value. It’s bigger to me than football”, said Holmes. “My plan is for this to be a career. Now that I’m here, I’m planning on staying here a long time. A real long time.” 

I have a hunch a lot of teams will regret passing on Darnay Holmes. He’ll make sure of it.

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