BY RUSSELL HUFFMAN
When Ben Holmes steps into a class or out onto the field for Tarleton State University, it’s to fulfill promises he made to himself and his mother as she lay dying from the crippling disease Scleroderma that slowly robbed her of her motor skills and eventually caused organ failure.
The redshirt senior quarterback had to deal with his mother’s illness for most of his life as she was stricken when he was just two years old. Described as worse than arthritis the disease slowly caused the contraction of Susan Andrews muscles and eventually spread to her organs.
Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases. The word “scleroderma” comes from two Greek words: “sclero” meaning hard, and “derma” meaning skin. Hardening of the skin is one of the most visible manifestations of the disease.
It was a very long, slow and painful dying process and wore on Holmes in the final year when he took off some time from school and started thinking about staying close to home was the best thing to do.
Not finishing school was one thing his mother didn’t agree with her son about, and she kept reminding him of the importance of education and that the obstacles in his path could be overcome. Wanting only the best for her child, she secured a deathbed promise that Holmes would dedicate himself to staying in school and playing football.
It’s been a heavy burden to bear for Holmes who is not your prototypical quarterback at 6-0 and from all places Orchard Park, New York which is not the most heavily recruited part of the country when it comes to football.
Throw in the fact Holmes played precisely one year of high school quarterback and the recruiters are not going to beat down the door. Although there was some interest in the wide receiver turned quarterback because his coaches noticed he was throwing back the ball better the quarterback who was throwing it out.
Holmes threw well enough to get his team to the state title game and then signed to play for Nassau Community College where he earned All-American honors in 2014. Holmes was on top of the world, but as he mother’s illness took a turn for the worse he was taking more time away from his studies, and that led to grade problems.
Following his mother’s passing and his time of mourning, Holmes rededicated himself in the classroom and on the practice field and the books were never far away as he looked to make good on the promise he made his mother.
He has stuck to his guns, and his grades in criminal justice and general studies began to improve.
“I’ve always been a visual learner,” Holmes said. “My goal is to one day be a homicide detective.”
Holmes is looked at as a natural leader by his teammates, and he generally tries to lead by example as he believes players should be accountable for their actions.
“Anybody can go out and say this or that is the best thing to do,” Holmes said. “But it’s your actions that count more than anything else.”
Holmes will be looking to gain the starting job this football season when he steps out onto the field as a redshirt senior.