By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Students in Whitley County get their first chance to “Win 1 Way” this week when a former NFL player brings his motivational message to southeast Kentucky.
What is “Win 1 Way”?
“This is a program that I have started in the local schools and churches,” said Andy Croley, Whitley County Coroner. “(It) is designed to have guest speakers and activities to motivate and encourage our youth.”
The first speaker headed for Whitley County is Clayton Holmes, formerly a defensive back with the Dallas Cowboys who owned three Super Bowl rings. Holmes will be in Whitley County Wednesday and Thursday this week, speaking to high school students about his past and motivating them to push for a better future for themselves.
Croley said Holmes is the first in a series of speakers heading for Whitley County.
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.”
Croley attended college and played football with Holmes at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn.
A third-round draft pick in 1992, Holmes played three seasons with the Cowboys — but it was during the 1993 season that a knee injury during a pre-season game left him benched for the season.
Several decisions made while on the bench led him to a one-year suspension in 1995 after he tested positive for drugs.
The Cowboys let him go in 1996 — and one year later he signed with the Miami Dolphins. Eight months later, after failing yet another drug test, he was released from that team.
However, poor adult decisions weren’t the only factor against Holmes — a troubled childhood filled with abuse and neglect was his basis for learning to be a good adult.
That’s why Holmes decided he wants to help others. “I went through physical abuse, mental abuse and sexual abuse,” Holmes said. “I’ve been through those experiences in my life.”
Because of the abuse suffered as a child, Holmes found it difficult to get through the normal paces of life.
“I struggled through school,” he said. “I didn’t understand it then — but now I understand why I struggled through school.”
He said he played the “blame game” for a while. “I was mad at my mom — at my parents,” he said. “But I’m way past that now.”
Holmes, a South Carolina native, remembered coaches, including Harry Carson, who came to his high school to speak to the students.
“(I remember) what they did to inspire my life,” he said, adding that he seeks to do the same for students today, including those in Whitley County. “I want to get my life story out there.”
Statistically, Holmes said he should never have emerged from the life of poverty and abuse he grew up around.
“I should never have made it to the (National Football League), let alone to college,” he said.
But he did — he shined as a football player for Carson-Newman College (now Carson-Newman University) in Jefferson City, Tenn. Holmes said he well remembered playing football with Croley. Holmes said Croley was a freshman when he was a senior.
He said he looks forward to speaking to Whitley County’s students.
“I’m excited about coming,” he said. “Kids need leadership — (they) need to have hope and a little piece of mind about whatever is going on in their lives.”
He feels there are likely other students quietly suffering through their lives as he did.
“There are a lot of other ‘Claytons’ out there,” Holmes said, adding that their parents or caregivers deal with their own problems, leaving their children to often fend for themselves.
“You have to ‘coach’ that child,” he said. “(We) want them to become something with a good education, no drugs or alcohol, (and to) have respect for women.”
He said it’s a cycle that needs to be broken.
“You can get to college — you just have to (surround yourself) with people who have good intentions for you.”
Holmes remembers the words said to him by those long-ago coaches were sincere. “I want to give that back now,” he said.
And in 2000, he started his new path on life — the one which led him to the position he’s in today.
“In 2000 I started speaking,” he said. “Then in 2004 I decided I wanted to make that my business.”
He’s turned from a general speaker to a motivational speaker — and even has a book coming out in December.
Currently a resident of Wenatchee, Wash., Holmes said he has been asked to speak “all around the country.”
His first “big” school was the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in Chattanooga, Tenn. Since then, he’s spoken in several schools, service clubs, businesses, car dealerships and more.
“I want to make this my business — this will really catapult me into the national field,” Holmes said. “This is the way my heart is — my passion is.”
And a recent near-tragedy pushed him harder to get out and start talking.
“About a month ago, there was a fire on a farm,” he said. “I (took) the owner to the hospital — it moved me to put things into high gear.
Holmes added “you never know” how much life you have left.
“I have lots to get done,” he said. “I want my story to be shared — I think it would help a lot of people.”
Holmes will be speaking to Williamsburg Independent Schools at 9 a.m. Wednesday, then on Thursday at 9 a.m. he will be in Whitley County High School, then in Corbin High School at 1 p.m.
Holmes said he will also sign autographs for the students at those schools.
By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
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