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Holmes makes mark as all-around athlete

As a three-sport star at Northwestern Lehigh, Justin Holmes is best described by the word ‘athlete.’

In fact, that’s exactly how Kent State University recruited him for football, signing him not as a wide receiver, which is where he played as a freshman and a sophomore, nor as a quarterback where he excelled last season as a junior. Instead, they recruited him as an ‘athlete.’ Basically, Kent State coach Sean Lewis told Holmes that he wanted to get him to commit, and they would figure out where he’ll play later.

Lewis was smart enough to make Kent State the first program to offer Holmes a scholarship, which seemingly opened the floodgates for other schools to join in. Before long, Holmes had several offers, but after a visit to Kent State and stumbling across the aerospace engineering major, he decided he would take the offer that was the first one put to him.

“I knew that I wanted to go into engineering, but I wasn’t sure of exactly what kind,” said Holmes. “They have aerospace engineering and have their own airport at Kent State, so I would be able to get hands-on experience and when I considered the different areas that I could work in following school, I decided that was how I wanted to go.

“Plus, the relationships that I developed with the coaches there was really great. Their quarterback (Dustin Crum) is an aerospace engineering major, so that’s helpful, too.”

As for help, Holmes credits former Northwestern quarterback Devin Bollinger with helping his career at Northwestern progress and helping to guide him through the recruiting process, which Holmes admitted got to be pretty nerve wrenching.

“With Devin here I played wide receiver and did well and then when he left, I was able to take over his position. That really started to get me noticed by colleges because I could play either position,” said Holmes. “It was good to have a friend like Devin that I could talk to about the whole process and what to expect. That was a big help to me.”

At one point, Bollinger and Holmes had dreams of possibly teaming up again at the University of Delaware where Bollinger is attending. There was also some thought that Holmes could join older brother Derek, who plays baseball at Moravian College. Holmes could also have followed in his father’s footsteps and played football at Kutztown. Instead, Holmes went with Kent State which is five-and-a-half hours away from home. He admits the distance isn’t ideal, but is still a trip that family and friends could make to get to see him play and allow him to return home for the occasional long weekend.

As for the academic part of Holmes’ commitment to Kent State, how the football program is laid out also made a lot of sense. Team practices are always in the morning and are over early enough to allow the players to get to afternoon and evening classes and have time open to study.

“That just seemed like it was going to be a lot easier. It makes sense to have things planned out like that and I think that’s going to help a lot,” Holmes said.

Before heading to Ohio for college, Holmes has his senior school year to finish off at Northwestern Lehigh. Summer workouts are just ending for football before the lead up to the season gets underway. Holmes will return as the team’s quarterback and while there are still plenty of senior players, the team also lost several key players to graduation.

“I like what I see so far. We have some holes to fill, but we also have some younger kids who look like they’re ready to step up and play and there are enough seniors around to help show them how things need to be done,” said Holmes. “I’m hoping for another big season for both me and the team, especially since it’s my senior season.”

Holmes rushed for over 1,000 yards as a junior and added over 1,300 yards in passing for the Tigers. Holmes has notched several school records, including creating over 400 yards of offense against Palmerton last season.