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01-19-2008 12:32 PM #1Pub Member / Supporter
Former Pittsburgh Steeler Ernie "Fats" Holmes Dies In CrashLUMBERTON, Texas -- A Pittsburgh Steelers legend and original member of the Steel Curtain has died. Ernie Holmes, 59, was killed in a car crash near Lumberton, Texas, Thursday night.
Holmes, who currently lived in the small community of Wiergate as an ordained minister, was most famous for his years with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1972 to 1977. Holmes played as a defensive lineman.
Officials told KBTV that Holmes was driving southbound on Highway 69 near Colonial Drive in Hardin County, when his car left the roadway and rolled over several times.
Holmes was ejected and pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
Holmes won two Super Bowl Rings with the Steelers, in Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X. He recorded 39 and a half sacks during his career with the Steelers.
He was featured in the Steel Curtain along with Mean Joe Greene, LC Greenwood and Dwight White.
The group stayed in touch, getting together at least three or four times a year, Holmes said last year in a story on the Steelers' Web site.
Holmes was part of a front four in the 1975 Super Bowl that helped limit Minnesota to 17 yards rushing and 119 total yards. The Steelers won their first Super Bowl, 16-6. They were back a year later, beating Dallas 21-17 in the title game.
The 1976 Steelers defense was one of the best in NFL history, shutting out five opponents, including three in a row, during a nine-game, season-ending winning streak. The Steelers allowed only 28 points during those nine games, an average of slightly more than a field goal per game.
"He was devastating and would just destroy the opponent across from him," former Steeler linebacker Andy Russell said. "Sometimes I had to remind him to tackle the guy with the pigskin. He was a brilliant player. He played all with his heart."
Holmes had a reputation for being "stone crazy," he told Time magazine in 1975. That came mostly from a case early in his career when he pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon following a bizarre episode in which he fired a pistol at trucks and a police helicopter. He was sentenced to five years' probation.
"He had a split personality," longtime Steelers director of communications Joe Gordon said. "He was a maniac on the field and a teddy bear off it. But he was a terrific guy."
Holmes was nicknamed "Fats" for most of his life. He also was nicknamed "Arrowhead" in 1974 when he shaved his head, leaving only an arrow-shaped pattern of hair on his skull.
"I asked him, `What the hell did you do that for?' " Gordon said. "We were getting ready to play the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. He said, `That's to point me to the quarterback.' "
Holmes, who was about 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds during his career but weighed as much as 400 after he retired, also told Time he was attracted to the violence of football.
"I don't mind knocking somebody out," Holmes said. "If I hear a moan and a groan coming from a player I've hit, the adrenaline flows within me. I get more energy and play harder."
After football, Holmes had minor acting roles. He appeared in an episode of the 1980s TV show "The A-Team" and dabbled in professional wrestling.
Holmes tried to live a calmer life in later years, settling on a ranch near the southeast border of Texas, where he had a church and was an ordained minister. He told the Steelers he was a more "spiritual being."
Teammates took note of Holmes' changed demeanor at Steelers reunions and autograph shows. Russell said Holmes had taken "meaningful steps in improving his life" and seemed to be a "much more thoughtful kind of person."
"Ernie seemed to be doing well in recent years and was always one of our most popular players whenever he returned to Pittsburgh for team events," Rooney said. "Our prayers go out to Ernie's family and loved ones. He will be missed by the entire Steelers family."
White, his Steel Curtain teammate on the defensive line, said he was in "deep grief" Friday.
"Ernie was a very colorful person that you couldn't help but like off the football field, a little different on the field as we well know," White said. "Ernie had gotten into the ministry and was a true inspiration to Joe, L.C., and myself when we were together. You know, it's all about where you end up, and Ernie blossomed into an individual that I respected, admired and will miss.
Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney on the Death of Ernie Holmes:
"We are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and untimely death of Ernie Holmes. Ernie was one of the toughest players to ever wear a Steelers uniform. He was a key member of our famous Steel Curtain defense, and many people who played against him considered Ernie almost impossible to block. At his best, he was an intimidating player who even the toughest of opponents did not want to play against. Ernie seemed to be doing well in recent years and was always one of our most popular players whenever he returned to Pittsburgh for team events. Our prayers go out to Ernie's family and loved ones. He will be missed by the entire Steelers family."
Former Pittsburgh Steeler Ernie Holmes Dies In Crash - Sports News Story - WPXI Pittsburgh
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