Nearing the end of a midseason workout five years ago, the Huskies of Hunter Huss High School in Gastonia, N.C., gathered in a circle, engaging in one of their daily one-on-one tackling drills.
Like most days, this particular drill was dominated by a brooding, bruising senior who took pride in knocking his teammates to the ground, one-by-one.
Then he met Lamar Holmes.
Holmes, a sophomore defensive tackle who was struggling to earn playing time, stepped up to the challenge. Seconds later, that dominant senior was flat on his back and Holmes was on his way to a new position.
"That was the day the coaches saw what I could do," said Holmes, now a 6-6, 310-pound offensive tackle at Itawamba Community College. "I took on our best player and beat him, and the coaches saw enough that they thought I could help out on the offensive line."
Since that day, Holmes has been a force at right tackle, first for Hunter Huss High and now at ICC, where he enters his sophomore campaign as the school's fifth NJCAA Preseason All-American in as many years.
One year after earning all-state honors as a freshman, Holmes is now the leader of the ICC offensive line, the linchpin for an Indians' offense that's expected to be much improved from a year ago.
For ICC head coach Jeff Terrill, Holmes' leadership extends past the playing field.
"When you've got somebody with great character and work ethic like Lamar, you've got somebody that's fun to coach," Terrill said. "He's a player I know we can always count on to put the work in and get the job done."
Work, work, work
While blessed with the size and agility necessary to excel at right tackle, Holmes' calling card could be his work ethic. To a man, each ICC coach pointed to Holmes' desire and drive to get better as his best attribute.
For Holmes? It's just a matter of doing what his father expected of him.
"My dad was there every step of the way growing up," Holmes said of his father, Anthony. "My family played the biggest role in getting me ready for being a football player. My dad taught me that you have to work hard for everything you get, so I'm just trying to get better every time I step on the field."
And when he steps off the field?
"The first thing I do is call my dad," Holmes said, "to tell him about practice or the game. He always helps me with whatever I need."
According to ICC offensive line coach Jon WIlliams, Holmes takes that same familial approach with his teammates.
"He's one of the best young men I've ever coached, and his teammates pick up on that," Williams said. "The rest of the guy's on the line look to him for leadership."
In his comfort zone
Once on the field, Holmes' nice-guy image is forgotten. In its place is a 6-6, 305-pound mountain at right tackle that keeps the ICC offense clicking.
"Whenever you can put a guy at the offensive tackle position that you can trust to get the job done, that really makes your offense that much better," Terrill noted, "especially in the passing game."
Williams, who has sent two lineman to D1 schools - Gabe Hollivay to North Texas, Trevor Newsome to Southern Miss - in the past two years, places particular emphasis on the tackle position.
"In this league, you're going to see quality defensive ends every time you play," Williams said. "That's why you've got to have a guy like Lamar out there, or you'll get eaten alive."
Holmes is set to follow Newsome to Southern Miss after committing to the Golden Eagles in July. Still, he's got unfinished business in Fulton this season.
"We missed the playoffs last year and that doesn't happen around here," Holmes said. "So we've got to do whatever we have to do to get back into the playoffs. I'm just here to play my part and do whatever I have to do to make this team better. I just want to set the tone for every game, every practice."
Just like Dad taught him.
ICC welcomes Co-Lin in preseason scrimmage
FULTON – Tonight’s football action isn’t limited to high school jamborees.
In Fulton, the ICC Indians will wrap up their second full week of practice with a 5 p.m. scrimmage against Copiah-Lincoln at Lambert Stadium.
“This scrimmage will really give us a chance to measure where we are as a team,” said ICC head coach Jeff Terrill, who is in his eighth year at Itawamba. “It will be a test by fire, if you will. Co-Lin will expose weakness and areas we need to address.”
ICC opens it season Aug. 27 with a home date against Jones County.