The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

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February 1, 2014

SUPER BOWL GLORY: Huntsville native Robert Holmes remembers winning the big game

HUNTSVILLE — Children across America dream of Super Bowl glory as they weave in between flower pots and scattered toys lying around the backyard with a football tucked securely under their arm.

They envision ducking and dodging massive defensive linemen as they cross the goal line for the game-winning touchdown. They run around screaming as their make-believe teammates hoist them on their shoulders and carry them off the field victorious before they collapse breathlessly to the ground.

As the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos get set to duke it out in today’s Super Bowl XLVIII, there will be wide-eyed youngsters in Huntsville with aspirations of someday playing in the big game glued to the television. While they know the names of NFL stars such as Peyton Manning and Marshawn Lynch, they might not know that a guy who grew up in their hometown experienced the sweet taste of victory on football’s grandest stage.

Robert “Tank” Holmes, a standout running back at Huntsville’s Sam Houston High School in the 1960s, was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs when they upset the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Now 68, Holmes said his memory of his biggest game is a little fuzzy, but he remembers what it was like to be a world champion.

“It was exciting to me to be on such a great team,” Holmes said Friday over the phone from his home in Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan. “Winning the big game was good stuff. At the time I didn’t give it much thought because I wasn’t expecting to be with the Chiefs that long.”

Holmes, who grew up in the old Saw Mill Quarters neighborhood near Boettcher’s Mill, helped guide the mighty Sam Houston High School Tigers to the semifinals of the Prairie View Interscholastic League state playoffs in 1963. He received a scholarship to Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., and was a 14th-round pick by the Chiefs in the 1968 American Football League draft.

Holmes, who had a short, stocky frame during his playing days which earned him his nickname, said he was thankful the Chiefs gave him a chance.

“I was excited to go to the Chiefs,” he said. “(Coach) Hank Stram was short like me, so it helped me fit in around all those big guys.”

During his rookie season in 1968, Holmes rushed for 866 yards and seven touchdowns. The following year, he racked up 612 yards on the ground with two scores as the Chiefs went on to down the Oakland Raiders in the final AFL Championship Game. (The AFL and NFL merged in 1970 to form the modern day NFL.)

The victory over the Raiders set up a showdown against the heavily favored NFL champion Vikings in Super Bowl IV in New Orleans at Tulane Stadium on Jan. 11, 1970. Holmes had five carries for 7 yards in the Chiefs’ 23-7 upset of the Vikings.

“I remember that people were talking about how good the Vikings were,” said Holmes, who was an AFL All-Star in 1969. “The people that knew the Chiefs and our players, they weren’t surprised we won.”

Morris Johnson, a longtime Huntsville educator who coached Holmes in high school, remembers what it was like watching his former student playing in the Super Bowl.

“I was screaming and hollering,” Johnson said Friday with a chuckle. “I wanted them to win because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Jay Griffin, who played high school ball with Holmes for three years, said he got a huge lift from his lifelong friend’s Super Bowl championship.

“I was in Vietnam at the time and I remember being very excited that I had a homeboy that made it that big,” Griffin said.

Holmes, who worked in construction following his football career, says he still has his cherished Super Bowl ring. It’s tightly locked away in a safety deposit box. He takes it out when the occasion calls for it.

“I have it locked up at the bank,” he said with a laugh. “When I have somewhere important to go, I go and get to show off a little. Then back it goes to the bank.”

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