LINDEN, N.J. -- With 3:30 remaining in the third quarter on Sunday afternoon in Buffalo, Santonio Holmes ran a slow post, contorted his body and somehow managed to snag an 8-yard touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez with three Bills defenders surrounding him.
The TD, which increased the Jets’ lead over Buffalo to 20-3, was 30th of the wide receiver’s career.
“A blessing,” Holmes called it.
Holmes says he feels was blessed to be able to play in the NFL and win a Super Bowl MVP award. It was a dream he had since he was young. A dream he was able to realize after a standout career in high school and at Ohio State. A dream that became a reality, in part, because of one of the other blessings in his life: his oldest son, Santonio Holmes III.
On Monday night, nine-year-old Santonio III was running around Jersey Lanes bowling alley with his friends, enjoying himself and having fun like most kids should.
“He’s wonderful,” Holmes said.
It hasn’t always been that way.
On April 18, 2002, Santonio Holmes became a father. He was a senior in high school at the time. A scholarship to Ohio State awaited him. It wasn’t going to be easy, but Holmes was going to make it work.
Shortly after, though, everything changed.
A routine visit to the doctor proved anything but. Santonio III was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, a potentially fatal disease in which the red blood cells are abnormal. As a result the body is more susceptible to crises like bone pain and fever, which according to the U.S National Library of Medicine, can last from a few days to a few weeks.
Hospital stays are inevitable. Life expectancy is around 40. There is no cure.
The sad part is, Holmes was a carrier of the disease, which then becomes inherited.
He was devastated. And as a result, Holmes became even more motivated to reach the pros.
“It just made me work harder, knowing that i had to be the provider for the medical expenses,” Holmes said. “I wanted to make sure that he was taken care of and find the right doctors.”
At the age of 27, Holmes has already seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
He’s been a father, a champion and a wrongdoer. He’s made arguably the most iconic catch in Super Bowl history. He’s been arrested. He’s been traded. He’s almost lost his oldest son.
Last season, Holmes had to miss part of training camp because Santonio III had to have his spleen removed. Right now, Holmes’ son is in good health -- but that could change. It’s bound to.
On Monday night, though, all was well. Several of Holmes’ teammates and coaches -- including coach Rex Ryan and Sanchez -- joined him at the bowling alley to support his foundation, III & Long. The charity event raised $34,000, according to the Associated Press.
“You come out to an event like this to support your teammate. A lot of guys have so many things going on, so something like this lets us come together and support a good cause,” Brandon Moore told the AP.
Holmes hopes all the money will lead to a cure. It just has to.
“[My son’s] excited about the things we’re doing and the opportunity to meet little kids that have sickle cell like he does and share stories,” Holmes said. “It’s just something he can grow from and learn from and make it better for himself in the years to come.”
Holmes said Santonio III isn’t on a specific regimen where he sees a doctor regularly, but he does have to go for checkups three times a year.
Santonio Holmes has made several headlines on-and-off the field this season. He’s criticized the offensive line. He’s complained about not getting the ball enough.
At the halfway point, he has 25 catches.
“I just came here to win,” Holmes said when asked about the number of balls thrown his way.
But more than anything, Holmes just wants his son to get better. And it appears he’s doing everything he can -- including changing himself -- to make that dream become a reality.