SAN ANTONIO - Priest Holmes finds running with a football easier than finding his place in retirement. He’s one of the best football players to ever come out of a San Antonio-area high school, with a running style that would vault him into the University of Texas Hall of Fame and make him an NFL star.
"I'm still trying to figure out how to be retired. If you have any tips, help me out,” Holmes said. “It's a difficult thing to do."
Ten years ago, Holmes walked away from his professional football career, but he still feels its effects and he insists he doesn’t miss the game.
"Not at all," Holmes said.
Holmes looks like he could still play, lifting side-by-side with his longtime trainer Bay Bay McClinton. And while the drive is still there, the desire is not.
"It’s 10 years later and I'm actually still feeling my injuries and the results of all the collisions that I had taken over those 11 years," Holmes said.
Even in a gym with the memories all around him, the NFL All Pro and Super Bowl champ looks back with a wince. He said nerve damage sometimes makes it hard to walk. Degenerative joint and disc disease and numerous concussions also have taken a toll.
Holmes said he remembers his final game and a concussion so bad he felt like he was “running on clouds.”
"That's probably the worst feeling — to be able to have the ball in your hand, running, and it feels like you’re in slow motion and everything around you is moving fast. And so I went into the locker room at halftime and I looked at the doctors and I said, ‘This is it. I think I'm done,’” Holmes said.
"Is it really worth it? Yes, you make big money, but afterwards, you're going to feel it. You may not feel it after you retire, but as you get older, it's going to creep up on you," McClinton said.
McClinton trains local athletes to get ready to go pro. He trained Holmes and played football himself.
McClinton believes he and Priest have come to terms with the rewards and risks of a sport they still love.
"Everyone's different, and so I think some young men across the country, they've already convinced themselves that they would rather find themselves laid out on the football field than give it up," Holmes said.
But Holmes did give it up, leaving Kansas City and moving home.
The Priest Holmes Foundation gives out educational scholarships to local high school students. Holmes recently helped get a truckload of donated items to Hurricane Harvey victims through the San Antonio Food Bank.
While he is stepping up in a number of ways, Holmes said he's still trying to find his place off the football field.
"I was always in the process. Never able to enjoy the things I had achieved. And so it took for me to retire, it took for me to have these sustained injuries, to realize life is short and you may have to realize what you enjoy doing and what makes you tick and happy," Holmes said.
In recent years, Holmes has started collecting art and black-history stamps. He is also worried about what his injuries, including the numerous concussions he said he suffered, may cost him later in life.
“It’s very difficult for me to tell someone not to invest their time and resources into the game, but there definitely is a price that you will pay by playing in the NFL,” he said.
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