Chicago Bears signee visits Blacksburg school
BLACKSBURG – Hundreds of students at Margaret Beeks Elementary School filed into the school’s multipurpose room Tuesday to hear from one of the Chicago Bears’ newest roster additions.
A little more than 11 years ago, Tyler Holmes sat in the same room waiting to hear from Virginia Tech athletes he idolized. Now, he’s the athlete students at his former elementary school look up to.
Holmes graduated from Blacksburg High School in 2008 before attending the University of Massachusetts on a football scholarship.
Just last week, Holmes and his family patiently sat through the National Football League’s 2012 player draft. After three days of drafting, Holmes wasn’t on an NFL roster.
About an hour after the draft ended, Holmes received a phone call from the Bears. He was relieved to learn he had been signed as an undrafted free agent.
Margaret Beeks physical education teacher Eddie Sloss knew Holmes was in town and asked him if he would come to the school to speak with students during their field day.
Holmes said he remembers pulling his chair down the hall to come to the same assemblies.
“I remember being a young kid in this elementary school looking up to the Virginia Tech players who used to come and talk to us,” Holmes said. “I remember thinking, ‘I want to be a football player.’”
Holmes encouraged the students to dream big about their future.
“Never stop living your dreams and never give up on them,” Holmes told the students.
At 5-feet, 11-inches, Holmes had been told numerous times that he wouldn’t make it to the NFL as a linebacker, but he never gave up on that dream.
“My whole career I’ve been told I’m a good athlete, but I may be too small or too slow,” Holmes said. “I just take all that feedback and use it as fuel to my fire when I train.”
“It’s not only helped me on the field, but also in life.”
In spite of that, Holmes was a three-time All-American linebacker at UMASS. He far exceeded the expectations of many in the football world, but not those who know and love him in Blacksburg.
“The community has really embraced me and shown me a lot of support over the last few days,” Holmes said.
Lynn Hickok, Holmes’ physical education teacher at Margaret Beeks, said she remembers watching Holmes in class and could tell that he was a natural athlete, but more importantly, a leader.
“He was one of the leaders that I could count on getting the class together and doing the right thing,” Hickok said.
Holmes knows the importance of giving back to the community, especially the one that has given him so much.
“I always said that if I was in a blessed position that I would try to give back as much as I can and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to be doing that now,” Holmes said.
Holmes’ opportunity begins May 11 at the Bears’ Rookie Minicamp.
Holmes said he hopes to make the roster, create a lot of havoc on defense and create a lot of turnovers.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to be studying under Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs,” Holmes said. “Those guys are two hall of fame linebackers and it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Arguably, Urlacher and Briggs are two of the best linebackers in the game, and Holmes is excited to learn under two professional athletes. He said he’s most excited to see how they view the game.
But Hickok believes Holmes will make a name for himself.
“[Sloss] said he was an awfully good football player and I know he did the right things while he was here at [Margaret Beeks],” Hickok said. “I’m sure it continued through and as long as he gives 100 percent like he did in P.E. class, he can make it.”
Students can learn from Holmes that they can start in Blacksburg and go anywhere, Hickok added.
Sloss said Holmes has represented Blacksburg well and will continue to do so in the future.
“He’s the guy you want to surround your team around,” Sloss said. “He’s a first-class athlete, he’s humble and he’s worked hard his entire life.”
The Margaret Beeks Bears and Holmes will always have a special bond.
“Once a Bear, always a Bear,” Sloss said.
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