Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes discusses inspiring youth and HBCUs – Detroit Lions blog
DETROIT – A&T Reunion Festivities in North Carolina in 1999 are still alive today Detroit Lions the spirit of Managing Director Brad Holmes.
After beating Howard University 51-0 on the grill, Holmes, who was an outstanding defensive lineman for the Aggies, capped the weekend at Greensboro Coliseum by attending a concert featuring the hip stars -hop Noreaga, Drag-On, Mobb Deep, Eve and Juvenile.
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âIt was definitely my best experience back home,â Holmes recalls.
Holmes was speaking to around 50 Detroit high school students during a question-and-answer discussion to highlight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), in which he shared personal stories, such as the homecoming experience in 1999.
Speaking to students from inside the Ford Field Hall of Legends, Holmes encouraged local children – such as Na’Kyah Adjuman, 16, and Jeremiah Green, 17 – to consider attending HBCUs and settle down ambitious career goals as young African Americans, especially in football.
“The point I want to make is that I don’t want to keep that as a GM and head coach ceiling, and I understand that because that’s the face everyone sees,” Holmes , who is one of five black general managers in the NFL, Hall said. âThe head coach is the face of the team, and then the GM provides the resources for the coach and for the team and gets the players and for the draft and all that, but I want us to get high. on top of that. Like, we need black presidents. We need black vice presidents of football operations. It’s not just the general manager and the head coach.
âThe word of analysis is important in football right now and there are director of analysis roles, so if you are really good at numbers and math and aspire to go to an HBCU and study that, then you can have a field and a career. into it. So I don’t want us to keep that as a cap to be just another black GM. “
After the event, ESPN caught up with Holmes for an exclusive interview on the importance of inspiring the younger generation of African Americans in Detroit and using its platform to raise awareness for HBCUs.
(Some questions have been modified from their original versions)
Why was it so important for you to be here on game week talking about HBCUs in the Midwest, where they’re not as popular as the South?
Brad Holmes: I think we must continue to raise awareness at all times. I remember when we were talking in the summer and I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to fully immerse myself in the black community with whatever I can do to help and educate this population to help the cause by all the means. I certainly do. So, yeah, it was a busy day on a Wednesday. It was a mix of list, I have to go home and we are closing a house, but I don’t miss it because the HBCU, (North Carolina) A&T, the HBCU community and all my family who were A&T graduates, it gave me a lot and helped me define who I am so as not to give back, to give back when there is an opportunity to give back.
What’s the biggest misconception about HBCUs? What is the average person totally wrong about them?
Holmes: I think there is a stigma that maybe because they don’t have the resources and exposure that you will have in the Power Five major schools that there could be underdevelopment and that is so far from the truth. I mean, they’re lively, lively, lively kids coming out of these schools. I remember I was talking to a guy on a trip. He was a guy who worked for NASA and he was like, âman, before I retired I always went to A&T (North Carolina) to find my engineers and I never told nobody. So it’s like it’s his little secret hiding place to get the best engineers. But I’m like ‘why does this have to be a secret?’ A&T is a great engineering school and I say to myself: “No, it must be known around the world, don’t keep it a secret because it is much more difficult.” My sister was an engineering student at A&T and is still a successful FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) engineer. No, it’s no secret, we just want an opportunity.
It’s interesting that people keep that quiet. It’s like a hidden gem …
Holmes: Yeah yeah. And I understand it from a competitive point of view, he says ‘look, I’m going to have all the guys’ but still, I thought it was very, very interesting, but also from a football point of view, it’s the same. There is no shame in that. We don’t have a lot of room for error. You better dominate during the school year. You better be one of the all-star stars. You’d better hit all the marks and it might not get there for you, depending on your makeup and physical abilities. If you’re a Darius Leonard, if you’re a Tarik Cohen (Chicago Bears running back and former NC A&T star), you can make the second day of the draft. Sometimes even doing all of this is just to be picked late or have to fight as an undrafted free agent. Again, we just need the opportunities, man. I know with me coming from an HBCU and knowing what it is, I don’t put anyone behind the 8 ball because I know they are just as good and have the same abilities as the next person . It’s just giving them the opportunity.
How important is it for you to come to terms with being black and in your place, especially in a city like Detroit? The Detroit Pistons also have a black coach and general manager in Dwane Casey and Troy Weaver. How do you feed each other?
Holmes: This is so much the success of the Blacks in this city of Detroit. It blew me away. Me and Ray Agnew were talking about this the other day. Man, going out and seeing successful black people is like going out to different places in Birmingham, Michigan – where me and my family used to live. And then now we’re in Northville, but I think it’s very important. You can’t forget where you’re from and hopefully be in a city with so much black success and so much diversity. A city like Detroit makes you feel right at home. You want to do it for them for sure.
I know times are tough here in professional sport with the Pistons also being rebuilt. Did you feed each other? What is your relationship with Troy Weaver?
Holmes: Yeah, me and Troy keep in touch. He came to the Baltimore Ravens game and invited me to a few games. It was just when I started and I couldn’t get out, but Troy is a big brother. He texted me earlier today. And he’s been to an HBCU and knows what it is. I remember when he came and spent the day with us and it was just irons sharpeners with him being in some kind of a similar place in terms of trying to build this thing the right way and how its philosophy and its scouting processes unfold. So it was very, very intriguing and encouraging to hear. I am a big supporter. I can’t say I was a Pistons fan before I got here, but I’m a Pistons fan because Troy is a big brother and I know he does the right thing there.
Coming back to HBCUs, in a perfect world, how would you like HBCUs to be viewed in the future? Like what would be an ideal situation, in your opinion?
Holmes: Keep growing, keep growing with more opportunities. I think this is happening. It’s a bit slower process than I would like, but I think there is some progress being made. If we can continue to keep that light on and we have these guys like (Jackson State Head Coach) Deion Sanders, Eddie George (Tennessee State Head Coach) and those kind of guys bringing in even more of light from a national point of view. And again, we also need to hold ourselves accountable. Like, we can’t just sit back and think that things are going to be given to us just because we’re an HBCU. We have to go out there and prove it. We have to perform. We have to support people like me. I have to give back. I have to do these things to make sure they are given opportunities as well.
If you see a guy coming through the draft or a free agency that might have HBCU training, do you have a little more affinity just to take a closer look and check it out? It clearly doesn’t guarantee a spot, but does it help at all?
Holmes: (laughs) I would say I know what he went through. I’ll never forget when I went to pick up Tarik Cohen, I actually met him at the Bojangles around the corner. And, I said, ‘are you Tarik?’ and he said, ‘yeah.’ I had my stuff on the Rams and I’m like “I’m coming to see you.” We were in Greensboro, North Carolina. I got Bojangles for the staff. I was going to get some cookie sandwiches to bring to the football staff and he was there with a few of his teammates and we just sat down and started having breakfast. He was telling me he had to buy a new phone because his phone was broken, but it was just like ‘man, I know what you’re going through.’ I’ll never forget when I spotted (Indianapolis Colts linebacker) Darius Leonard from South Carolina State and cut him up with him in their country house and you just know the job, you know the hustle and bustle they’ve been through and it kind of brings you back. You know their “why” and the adversity they fought and overcome and that gives you perspective because we’re trying to look for intangibles anyway. It’s the separator anyway, I always said that. It’s easy to tell who’s fast and who’s explosive, but what are the intangibles? How are you wired? How hard do you work when faced with adversity? When you come from an HBCU, you are going to have to face adversity. You’re going to have to overcome some things so that means something.