From Home to Gridiron: Football player battles adversity
For student-athlete Courtney Holmes, home life has never been easy. Since the age of nine, Holmes has tackled adversity in order to survive.
At the young age of nine, Courtney’s mother was hit by a car right outside their home and died on the scene. Since then, Courtney and his siblings moved in with their grandmother and began a new life. He grew up with his cousins and found an escape in the sport of football, where Holmes played defense.
But in the summer entering Courtney’s freshman year of high school, tragedy struck again as his aunt’s boyfriend barged into their house with a gun. “I just remember waking up and hearing a gunshot,” said Jamari Johnson, Courtney’s younger cousin. Jamari was the third person to be shot that day, alongside Courtney’s aunt and one other cousin.
“I remember standing there, thinking to myself ‘this cannot be true,” said Holmes. Courtney joined the football team shortly thereafter where he reached his athletic peak. Holmes was, at one point, considered one of the best defensive players in Miami-Dade County as he nearly led the Explorers to a state championship bid his sophomore year.
In his playoff game against South Dade Senior High School, Holmes got an interception in which he says he was aided by his late mother. “I just remember hearing my cousin tell me that this ball was coming straight toward me,” said Courtney Holmes. Holmes was later tackled on the ground and began to cry. Courtney’s brother, Marquis Lanier, said “I looked at him and initially wondered why he’s crying. But once he told me that his mama helped him get this interception I began to cry too.”
Toward the end of his sophomore year, Holmes tore his ACL in Columbus’ annual spring preseason game. Courtney was sidelined for his entire junior year but showed up to every practice and game as he cheered on his teammates from the sidelines. The Columbus Explorers went undefeated that season but ultimately fell to the Mandarin Mustangs in the state championship game.
Eventually, Courtney Holmes was cleared to practice and returned to the field in Spring 2019 where he dominated for the first time in a year. Holmes recorded several tackles and an interception, that was nearly brought back for a touchdown.
He continued to practice with the team and was ready to participate in his first regular season game in two years as the Explorers were set to kick off against Belen Jesuit on August 21st. However, two months before the season started, Courtney’s life took another turn for the worse.
Holmes was at his home town of Goulds, FL spending time with his family near his house. Shortly after, a man got into an altercation with one of his brothers. Holmes immediately went to break up the fight when the man pulled out a gun and shot him. The bullet entered through’s Courtney’s buttocks and exited through his chest. “I remember going to the hospital saying ‘God, please don’t let me die like this. Please,” he said.
Holmes was in the hospital for several days and diagnosed with blood clots. Although his return is unknown is for now, his future remains bright. With offers from several D1 schools including USF and Michigan, Holmes looks to pursue a career in football and make his late relatives proud.