Imagine yourself as an 11-year old walking into a hospital room and seeing your father handcuffed to a bed, his body riddled with seven gunshot wounds as a result of a drug deal gone bad.
Your dad is your superhero. As a former NFL running back, he’s supposed to be indestructible.
How do you react?
What will the long-term effects be for you?
Will this strengthen your resolve or weaken you?
Where will your life — and his — go from there?
These surely weren’t questions that were running through Darnay Holmes’ head when he encountered this horrifying scene on a particularly bloody Valentine’s Day 2010 for his family.
Nor was the thought of being drafted as a cornerback out of UCLA by the Giants 10 years later (as he was last Saturday) — a story straight out of a movie script rejected by Hollywood for being too unrealistic.
Hours before Darnay, his brother Darick Jr., sister Dericka and mother Johnnay entered that hospital room outside of Los Angeles wondering whether they were going to see Darick Sr. alive or dead in that bed, this is what went down:
“I was buying weed to sell it,’’ Darick Holmes Sr. told The Post this past week. “I was trying to hop a wall, and the guy shot me in the back of my neck. I lay there on the ground acting like I was dead so he wouldn’t keep shooting me. I had a bag of money with me [reportedly $80,000] and just let him take the money off of me.’’
A short time later, the telephone rang at the Holmes’ home, where Johnnay was cooking breakfast and the kids were outside playing.
“I thought I was going to have to go there and identify a body” — Johnnay Daniels
“It was a Saturday,’’ Darick’s ex-wife, Johnnay Daniels, recalled to The Post. “I kept getting calls that were blocked, blocked, blocked. At first, I thought it was a bill collector. Finally, I picked up and the lady said, ‘Is this Johnnay Daniels?’ She said she was from the hospital and Darick Holmes was there and has been shot several times and he told her to contact me.
“I said, ‘Excuse me?’ She said, ‘shot several times,’ so I’m assuming he’s dead. I thought I was going to have to go there and identify a body. I didn’t know what I was going to walk into, and thought, ‘I’m not going to take my babies to this kind of thing.’
“Ten minutes later, the nurse called back and put [Darick Sr.] on the phone. He could barely talk to let me know that he was alive. Once I spoke with him, I got the kids in the car and we went over there. It was overwhelming. He’s hooked up to all this stuff and he’s handcuffed to the bed. I didn’t know what my babies were thinking to see their dad like that.’’
It’s a vision none of them will ever forget.
Darnay recalled, amid the chaos and confusion, being comforted by his father’s words that day.
“When he said, ‘I’m OK guys, everything is going to be fine,’ I was at peace, because he always lived up to his words,’’ Darnay said. “He didn’t have to say much more to us. We knew it was going to be a process, but he was going to get better.’’
A Father’s Influence
Darick Holmes Sr. — who played for the Bills, Packers and Colts from 1995-99, rushing for 1,769 yards and 11 touchdowns in his NFL career — got better.
As he promised.
Since the day he was shot and the ensuing months of recovery, which included nearly six months in a wheelchair, he turned his life around, and has been a trainer and mentor for youths pursuing a college football career with an academy he founded called Proway.
The influence the father’s life turnaround had on his kids has been profound.
Darick Holmes Jr (left), Darick Holmes Sr (middle), Darnay Holmes (right)Darick Holmes Jr
There’s no scientific way to measure things like this, but it’s hardly out of the question that without going through that harrowing experience, seeing his father near death after a foolish mistake then turning his life around, Darnay Holmes is not a New York Giant today.
That possibility is not lost on him.
“It’s a blessing to have him around still, having somebody who’s a case study on how to go the right way after making mistakes,’’ Darnay said. “I feel blessed that we didn’t lose him and that he managed to turn things around and be a big part of my journey to the NFL. I’m also just as grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from him in terms of what not to do.’’
Darnay, 21, followed his father’s footsteps into the NFL, but his journey, which includes graduating from UCLA in less than three years, has been a much cleaner path.
“I’m glad they saw what their daddy experienced,’’ Johnnay said of her kids.
“Darnay seeing everything firsthand, took it all in and used it as motivation to do better,’’ Darick Jr. said.
Johnnay said she was unaware Darick Sr. had been doing anything illegal.
“I did not have no idea that’s what he was doing,” she said. “I was like, ‘What the hell?’ I know times were rough for us, but I didn’t know that’s what he was doing to make ends meet. Because he’s always been the provider.’’
Darick Sr. said, “I was doing something I shouldn’t have been doing. I wanted to still provide for them without them knowing I actually was broke.’’
Time To Turn Pro
Darnay’s junior season at UCLA wasn’t what he’d hoped. A captain, he played through a high ankle sprain he suffered early in the season and that hurt his numbers — which weren’t as impressive as his sophomore year, when he had three interceptions, one returned one for a TD, 49 tackles, 11 pass break-ups and a kickoff return for a TD.
Because of that, Darick Sr. asked him to be sure he wanted to leave school a year early and enter the draft, knowing his stock dipped a bit in 2019.
“Truthfully, I was trying to get him to go back to school, do one more year,’’ Darick Sr. said. “He said, ‘Nah Dad, I’ve already graduated. I’m an NFL player. College can’t give me anything else.’ I said, ‘If you can accept going in the fourth or fifth round, I’ll back you 1,000 percent.’ He said he was cool.’’
Darick Sr., who for obvious reasons is biased, was not bashful about projecting the kind of pro his son will be once he gets to the Giants.
“Darnay is the steal of the draft, point blank,’’ he said. “There’s not a better athlete at cornerback in that draft than Darnay. He just got hurt last year and had a bad year. He’s a secret weapon the Giants are going to find out about. He’s an elite kickoff and punt-return guy. He’s a game-changer. He’s a Deion Sanders.’’
As much of an influence as Darnay’s father has been on him, Darick Jr. also had a hand in helping mold him. At 5-foot-5, he earned a scholarship onto the Arizona football team as a receiver.
Darnay Holmes (l) and brother Darick Jr.Darick Holmes Jr
“He always looked up to his big brother and the experience Darick had at Arizona,’’ Johnnay said.
“Darick played a big part in Darnay’s toughness,’’ Darick Sr. said. “Darick was always the one pushing him and telling him, ‘You’re soft.’ ’’
Darnay praised his brother for “his grit and aggression that he passed along to me.’’
“He never let size hinder him, he always tried to outwork the opponent,’’ Darnay said.
“I wouldn’t hold myself accountable for any of his accomplishments,’’ Darick Jr. said. “Darnay worked his ass off, so his achievements are on him for his hard work.’’
Hard work is something Darick Sr. has been honest about with his kids, admitting to them that he took his talent for granted in the NFL and never applied himself as much as he could and should have. That’s a big part of Darick Sr.’s core message with his Proway program.
“I want the kids to know what not to do,’’ Darick Sr. said. “I tell them, ‘I [messed] up enough for all you guys. I’ve been there. I had money. It was sex, weed and hip-hop for me back then.’ ’’
A Model Giant?
Darick Sr. believes the Giants are the perfect landing place for his son.
“He might have slipped in the draft, but he’s in the perfect situation, because everything is new for him and everyone else there with a new coach [Joe Judge],’’ he said. “The general manager [Dave Gettleman] said they expect him to come in and compete for a starting spot, so they’re putting it out there already. They know what type of player they got.
“I told him, ‘Son, if you don’t learn how to flourish under fire, you won’t flourish at all in New York.’ I told him, ‘This is what you’re built for, a perfect situation for you to go to.’ ’’
Advice like that, coming from a father who nearly lost his life because of one bad mistake, fuels Darnay.
“Having my pops in my corner has been a big asset for me, with him having played in the league before and understanding how things work,’’ Darnay said. “His main thing is, the only thing that’s going to stop you is yourself. With my skill set and my work ethic, I want to make sure that I grow my mind as well so everything is in cadence.’’
In quiet moments, Darnay’s mind sometimes wanders back to the dark place 10 years ago in that hospital room.
“Standing in that hospital, I knew with certainty that would never happen to me,’’ he said. “I was never going to let myself end up in that kind of situation.’’
Darnay’s words are proof, 10 years later, that his father lived up to his promise from that hospital bed when he told his kids: “As long as I can be here to guide you guys so that you don’t go through what I just went through, I’m going to do that.’’
And he has.
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