Ricklan Holmes acted the part the previous two weeks.
He officially landed the lead role on Thursday when Tyler Independent School District’s board of trustees voted unanimously to approve Holmes as the new head coach and campus athletic coordinator at John Tyler.
The announcement makes Holmes the first JT alumnus named head coach. Holmes holds the distinction as the only person in school history to play and coach for two 12-win teams.
JT won 12 games in 2009 and 2010 during state quarterfinalist seasons, and followed with 11 wins during last year’s run to the state semifinals.
“It’s a dream come true,” Holmes said shortly after the announcement. “I’m a hometown guy. Just to come back and be a position coach was a blessing. And now to be the leader of my alma mater, it’s an unexplainable feeling.”
Holmes served as acting coach after Dereck Rush stepped down to take a job at Conroe Oak Ridge, taking the Lions into the start of spring drills last week.
“The thing that stays the same is my leadership role and the direction of the team,” Holmes said. “What may change is the way we go about working. But as far as the scheme of what we do, that’s not going to change.”
After receiving more than 30 applications, and screening four finalists for interviews, the crew of JT principal Shon Joseph, TISD athletic director Rod Kaspar and Superintendent Dr. Randy Reid agreed on Holmes. Other notable applicants included Lions’ assistant head coach Paul Frye, and DeSoto defensive coordinator Kendrick Brown, another JT graduate.
Rush backed Holmes upon leaving for the job. Also, several members of the community, along with JT players, vouched for the 32-year old to receive his first head coaching opportunity.
JT won state in 1994 during Holmes’ freshman year at the school. The Lions went 24-5 during his two years on varsity.
“He’s one of our own,” Reid said. “The community and players and assistant coaches, and coach Rush himself, supported him. At the end of the day we believe we have the right candidate.”
Holmes worked the past five years at JT as secondary coach, head junior varsity coach and head girls track and field coach. He also filled in last year as boys track coach during the absence of Michael Johnson.
“With the way things are operating, we felt this would be a seamless transition for him to be the head coach,” Kaspar said. “I think he’s going to walk into a great situation. The kids respect him, the coaching staff respects him and the community. He will have some pressure on him, but I think anyone who would’ve walked into this situation would’ve felt the same pressure.”
JT returns all but five starters off an 11-4 state semifinalist, gaining the Lions an early bulls-eye especially after state finalists Lake Travis and Waco Midway moved up in classification.
“People are talking that John Tyler is the team to beat. But you have to get on the field and prove it,” Kaspar added. “He’s going to have a lot of support and a lot of people that know him. That’s going to be pressure, too. But we have all the confidence in coach Holmes to be successful.”
No stranger to high expectations, JT also opened the season No. 1 in 1997, Holmes’ senior year on the team.
The former running back/cornerback compared the game of football to another contest played with motioning parts on a board,.
JT set a school record for points and most passing yards in a season last year. The Lions often found themselves in high-scoring games, however, minus the potent ground game and shutdown defense often seen during Holmes’ playing era.
“Understanding it’s about the clock, not always about the points you score (will be key),” Holmes said. “It’s about moving your chess pieces in the direction that you need to accomplish the ultimate goal, which is winning.
“We’re going to get better at running the ball. I’ve never know a championship team that couldn’t run the ball. I think with an established running game, and an electrifying throwing and running quarterback, the big-time receivers we have. … you put all that together and you have the makings of an electrifying team.”
Ricklan Holmes/John Tyler head football coach, athletic coordinator
Hometown: Tyler (John Tyler HS, 1998)
College: Oklahoma State (1998-2002)
Professional: New England Patriots (2003-04)
Experience: Putnam City North (2005-06) — defensive backs; John Tyler (2007-2012) — secondary, head JV coach, head girls track coach.
Personal: Father to two kids, son Ricklan Holmes II (4) and daughter Aanunique Holmes (10); son of Robert Miller and Carolyn Holmes, and grandson of Maudrie Jones.
Noteworthy: Played for JT’s all-time winningest coach, Allen Wilson, in high school and for LSU’s national-championship wining coach Les Miles while at OSU. Holmes starred on both sides of the football for two state championship contenders at JT, the 1996 quarterfinalists and 1997 state semifinalists. … He spent a part of two seasons with the New England Patriots, and coached St. Louis Rams quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, a converted safety, during his first coaching job at Class 6A Putnam City. During his brief coaching career, Holmes helped coach two NFL products, including JT graduate Jeremy Lane, and 15 more players to the NCAA Division I and II ranks … JT spent the first nine weeks ranked No. 1 in Class 5A during Holmes’ senior year. The Lions already hold a preseason No. 1 ranking for next year in 4A.
Quoteworthy: “I’m going to bring toughness. Being under coach Wilson you had to be tough. I’m going to bring energy. With Les Miles that’s what he was about. I learned a lot playing for him and talking to him on a regular basis. …You’re going to see the old-school Cujo. You’re going to see a lot of guys play offense and defense. You can’t win without the best 11 players on the field.”