- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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Just a year removed from a four-game suspension, Santonio Holmes will wear the “C” of a New York Jets captain this year, coach Rex Ryan announced on Saturday. It shows how far the wide receiver has gone in a short time, from a cheap trade for a fifth-round draft pick to a five-year, $50 Million contract -- great expectations.
New York Jets
“Went from a rental to an owner,” said Ryan. “We tried it out, and now he’s one of us. I expect the last jersey he’ll ever wear to be a New York Jets jersey, and we’re extremely happy that he chose to come back. I see Tone as a guy that took the challenge that I gave him.”
It’s a mantle and perhaps a challenge for Holmes, who was not wanted by the Pittsburgh Steelers despite a Super-Bowl-winning catch that will live forever in highlight reels. He was seen as trouble, and in truth he would be suspended for a full season if he violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy for a third time. But the Jets are not treating him like a risky acquisition, but rather as a mentor to the younger wides and a leader on the offense.
“I told him coach I’ll take that responsibility any time,” Holmes said.
There was no vote. Ryan named Holmes, Mark Sanchez, Eric Smith, Sione Pouha and Darrelle Revis as captains for the season, because of their leadership skills and what they mean to their squad. Although it was surprising to Holmes, he understood why Ryan would name him captain.
“The guys love me around here,” Holmes said. “(I) made a big impact coming in here as a receiver and helping out the young guys as much as I could, and I know coach saw that as a leadership role.”
Last season Holmes had 52 receptions for 746 yards and six touchdowns despite the four game suspension. He also had a knack for making critical catches at pivotal moments. It’s a skill that doesn’t show up on the stat sheets, but one that made him a more valuable free agent to the Jets than Braylon Edwards was.
Now, Ryan wants the 27-year-old Holmes to play out the string in New York. It’s a far cry from playing for a Steelers team that tried to hasten his exit. Now all Holmes has to do is live up to the challenge.
“When you step on this field, it’s a whole other ballgame,” Holmes said. “You can’t get any higher than being in the NFL, so why not push yourself to be the best at your position and everything that you do.”