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Big hit a sign for former Greyhound "Bubby" Holmes

| Friday, July 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Bubby Holmes

What does Monessen's Milfred (Bubby) Holmes have in common with former Pittsburgh Steeler, NFL coach and current NFL analyst Tony Dungy?

They were teammates at the University of Minnesota.

Holmes was a running back with Dungy the Gophers' quarterback.

“Tony lived next door to me in college and had dinner a lot of times at my place,” he smiled. “And we always watched Monday Night football.”

Injuries in college, however, prevented Holmes from putting up numbers with the Gophers like he did breaking rushing and scoring records with the Greyhounds as a 1973 MHS graduate.

At Monessen, Holmes ran for 3,746 yards and scored 304 points.

He came within four points of becoming the only three-time Mon Valley Conference scoring champion.

After finishing second as a sophomore with 92 points behind Laurel Highlands' Bill DeShields' 96, Holmes tallied 136 points as a junior to beat runnerup Thomas Jefferson quarterback Jimbo Cramer by 30 points.

In Holmes' senior season, he scored 76 points for a 30 point advantage over Ringggold's Paul Timko.

Holmes had 1,320 yards as a sophomore and 973 yards as a senior when the Greyhounds' fullback was Tony Benjamin who went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks.

Holmes rushed for 1,453 yards as a junior starting out with 208 and 216 in his first two contests against Laurel Highlands and Brownsville.

Against a Ringgold team which had been unscored on in its first two Big 10 Conference games, Holmes ran for 167 yards on 12 carries and scored four touchdowns in a 52-6 rout in a Saturday afternoon contest at Legion Field in Donora with two other TDs being nullified – one on a penalty and the other when he fumbled into the end zone for a touchback.

The following year Holmes gained 117 yards on 19 carries and scored one touchdown in the 34-34 tie with Ringgold at Memorial Stadium which was Joe Montana's first varsity start at quarterback for the Rams.

Holmes' initial varsity start was also a memorable one in a win over Brownsville.

“With my cousin Howard Holmes in the backfield, it meant a lot to me,” he said.

Holmes' best game as a Greyhound was in a 34-20 victory at Charleroi in 1971 when he gained 307 yards in 27 carries with four touchdowns including scoring runs of 76 and 80 yards.

Holmes' last game in a Monessen uniform was a 14-14 tie against Jeannette at Three Rivers Stadium in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Holmes had to leave the contest with eight minutes left in the first half after fracturing four vertebrae in his back.

He had eight carries for 20 yards against the Jayhawks with a 63-yard touchdown run in the first quarter called back by an offside penalty.

Jeannette was awarded the victory by outgaining the Greyhounds, 254-177, with total offense yards being the tie-breaker.

Holmes was a rare three-time Mon Valley Conference selection and made the Big 33 team the same year as Tony Dorsett.

At Monessen, Holmes also ran track and played basketball.

He made Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd at the age of 14 in the Oct. 27, 1969, issue when he scored nine touchdowns in two games on 17 carries at Monessen Junior High.

Holmes received offers from 150 colleges including all the Big Ten schools and made visits to Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Miami, Arizona State and Pitt which had just hired Johnny Majors as coach.

“Majoring in business administration I thought Minnesota afforded me the best opportunity career-wise,” he said.

As a freshman, Holmes was used mostly as a kick and punt returner. A broken ankle in pre-fall practice wiped out his sophomore campaign.

Holmes led the Gophers in all-purpose yards as a junior with 760 including 537 rushing with 100 yard games against Ohio University and Oregon.

With seven pro teams showing interest in Holmes, his senior campaign turned out to be a nightmare.

In the season opener against Indiana, Holmes suffered a broken elbow after catching a pass from Dungy.

“It was heartbreaking,” recalled Holmes. “The moment I got hit I knew I had a religious experience. I knew it wasn't meant for me to be playing football and God wanted me to go in a different direction.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Holmes went to Bristol Myers Squib for seven years before going to the Mars Candy Company.

“I retired at 50 before starting my third career in law enforcement as sheriff deputy in Dakota County for five years,” he said.

With a Masters of Arts in Human Services from Concordia University, Holmes is now on the staff at the Associated Clinic of Psychology in Minneapolis which prevents, diagnoses and treats mental health issues.

Holmes owns some horses and had a horse farm at one time.

Living in Invergiore Height in Minnesota, Holmes was married for 24 years to Monessen native Karen Howski and they remain good friends.

They have two children, Shontay Butler, 33, a fashion designer at Macy's in New York and Jason, 37, a graduate student at St. Thomas University in Minnesota.

Jason's daughter, 11-year-old Jayden, is a point guard in the Minnesota traveling basketball league and also a soccer player.

Brian Herman is a freelance writer.

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