Chiefs running back Savage getting help from someone who’s been there
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
Perhaps because he was once one himself, Priest Holmes has an affinity for undersized, undrafted Chiefs running backs who previously played for a Big 12 school.
That could explain why Holmes, who retired from the Chiefs and professional football two years ago, will mentor Dantrell Savage before the Chiefs head off for training camp late next month.
“That would be one of the best things for me between now and training camp,” said Savage, a 5-foot-8, 182-pound running back who joined the Chiefs last year from Oklahoma State. “We have a lot of the same features, our size and height and also being a free agent (out of college) trying to make it. Basically, I can’t lose. He’s basically going to show me the ropes, just fill my head with information about how to make it in the NFL and also how to make it once football is gone.
“He knows how hard it is for a free-agent running back to make it in the NFL. It’s also hard on me because I’m small and a lot of times small guys in the league don’t last long. Small guys have to work harder and show you want the job.”
Though his playing days are over, Holmes can still be reclusive when it comes to doing interviews. He didn’t return messages for this story.
He showed none of the same reluctance when Dwayne Williams, who lives in Kansas City and helps Holmes and Savage schedule promotional appearances, asked him to help Savage.
“I’ve not known anybody who understands the game on the field and breaks down film as well as Priest,” Williams said. “If there’s anybody who can give Dantrell an understanding of what it’s going to take to be successful in the NFL, it’s Priest.”
Savage and Holmes have talked several times over the phone but haven’t yet met in person. That meeting will happen soon after Savage heads to San Antonio to assist Holmes with his football camp.
The two will also work out together. Holmes’ conditioning sessions are legendary for their length and intensity.
“I’m definitely ready for that,” Savage said. “Our coaches at Oklahoma State would kill us with the workouts, so I’ll be ready for that. I went on the Internet to look up the workouts he does. Those are definitely hard workouts, but I’ll be ready.”
Like Savage, Holmes was an afterthought entering the NFL. At 5-9 and 210 pounds coming out of Texas, Holmes wasn’t drafted in 1997 and signed with Baltimore.
He played mainly on special teams as a rookie but rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his second season. Still, only the Chiefs were interested when he became a free agent in 2001 — and even they believed at the time of his signing he was too small to be a featured back.
Holmes proved that to be wrong his first year in Kansas City, leading the league in rushing. He had an even better season in 2002, and set an NFL record for touchdowns with 27 in 2003.
Few are predicting that kind of future for Savage, so perhaps his sessions with Holmes are coming at an opportune time. The Chiefs have a new coaching staff, and Savage will get a look during training camp.
But he lost an ally when former head coach Herm Edwards was fired. Savage is no better than third in line at running back behind Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles. Kolby Smith is trying to return from last year’s season-ending knee surgery, and Jackie Battle and seventh-round draft pick Javarris Williams are also in the competition.
Savage is among those trying to win the job returning punts and kickoffs. But he will need to show he can help at running back if he’s going to have a career that resembles the one Holmes put together.
“Practice went real good,” Savage said. “We’re doing a lot of different things, a lot of new things. Running backs are catching the ball more out of the backfield. We’re lining up as a receiver, a slot receiver, and we’re going in motion. Last year, we didn’t do that much at all, so I think I have the skills to help out.”
Running Back is pretty deep in KC. He's gonna really have to impress some people to make the team. Good luck Dantrell!