TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Now is the time to change — that’s the message former Dallas Cowboys Defensive Back Clayton Holmes told students at Williamsburg Independent School Wednesday.
Holmes was the first speaker in a program started by Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley, Win 1 Way.
“This is a program that I have started in the local schools and churches,” Croley said. “(It) is designed to have guest speakers and activities to motivate and encourage our youth.”
On Wednesday, Croley, who played football with Holmes at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., introduced Holmes to the student-packed gymnasium.
He told the students he began making poor decisions by age 12 — by stealing candy from stores.
That led to breaking into houses — and he got caught in the third home he and a pair of buddies tried to burglarize.
The 17- and 18-year-old with him got into some trouble — he was given probation.
“My life started to change then,” he said.
Growing up, Holmes told the students he lived with his mother and three half-siblings.
“We grew up poor in the ‘hood,” he said, adding that all his siblings “had different dads.”
Holmes got lucky.
He told students when he was 12 or 13 his father married a new wife and wanted custody of Holmes.
The future football standout went from sharing a two-bedroom trailer with five people, eating maybe once a day and sharing a wardrobe with his brothers, to living in his own room, wearing his own clothes and having a stepmother who prepared three meals a day for him.
“I thought that was Hollywood,” he said.
Once that move was made, he began friendships with a whole new set of people.
“I had no reason to steal (anymore),” he said, adding that his new home environment helped him stop these bad habits.
Then he was introduced to the world of sports.
“Baseball was my first love,” he said.
But with all the home problems he grew up facing, he had a hard time with new activities.
“I was living inside my mind,” he said.
He said when he would step up to bat, he would simply watch the ball cross the plate until he was struck out.
But a baseball coach gave him just the nudge he needed, Holmes said. And that day he hit a triple.
“(When) I came across home plate for real, it was a transitional moment,” he said.
While he was able to change his home environment and look to sports for a future, he remembers the school years and what decisions were put before him then.
“If you have friends now who are smoking, drinking, (or taking) pills, yeah, you might say ‘no’ now,”
Holmes said. “But eventually you’ll start ignoring the rules.”
But he said it was not his job to point out others’ problems.
“I am the judge to nobody,” he said, adding that if things were not going well for students, they needed to find someone to discuss it with.
“You need to find someone who can listen,” he urged. “You are going to change if you take the reins (of your life) now — (your past) is not your fault, but it is your responsibility to change.”
He wants students to break the cycle of poverty and abuse that plagues many families throughout Kentucky and the United States — and the best time for that change is now.
Holmes will speak to high school students in Corbin High School and Whitley County High School today about his past and motivate them to push for a better future for themselves.
Croley said other scheduled speakers for his Win 1 Way program include Scott Galyon, former New York Giant and Miami Dolphin. He said Galyon now works with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and plans to hold a youth rally for youth groups nationwide.
Also on the docket for speaking is Marty Moore, former Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots.
“Several others are working out their schedules to confirm dates with me now,” Croley said.
Croley said speakers will vary on their discussion.
“Several topics will be emphasized,” he said. “(That includes) drug prevention, making the right choices, goal setting, and using abilities in a positive way.”