EAST LANSING, Mich. — There’s a bit of artistry beneath and behind the raw power of Michigan State running back Gerald Holmes.
Granted, it’s sometimes concealed by the way he runs through tackles for a couple of extra yards. It’s sometimes hidden by his straight-ahead style and long gallop. Often times, it gets lost amidst his back-to-back-to-back drive-sustaining carries.
But it’s there.
And it’s all part of the 6-foot, 220-pound redshirt sophomore’s creative side, a side that’s sometimes shelved but never too far out of reach.
“I look at myself as a tool, you know what I mean? I don’t go into every game looking at the field like ‘I’m an artist, so I’m about to come out here and a draw a couple pictures and everything on the field,'” said Holmes, who leads the Spartans with three rushing touchdowns. “But it’s more like a way of thinking. I do see myself as a different tool — whether it be a paintbrush, or someone who can create things on the field — and on paper.
“The field is a canvas, when I do a juke move or score a touchdown, there’s another mark on that paper.”
His catches also make an impression. He’s had five of them for 23 yards, adding depth and texture to his overall skill set.
“I know that he does have artistic ability. He’s a great young man. The thing that impresses me about Gerald is that he’s going to keep his feet moving on contact,” said Spartans coach Mark Dantonio. “He does have good vision, but you know he runs with power.
“So that ‘artistic flair’ — maybe just a paint splatter on the canvas because he’ll run with power. He’s a great young person. I think he’s got a great future ahead of him.”
While awaiting the snap, Holmes sees plays being drawn out before his very eyes.
Lines appear with each stride, he said. Moments later, an image appears.
Whether he’s taking a hand-off or splitting wide for a pass, he’s able to visualize and conceptualize — a trait he picked up by watching his uncle draw at the picnic table during family gatherings; a skill nurtured by an artistic mother and aunt — not to mention his father, a former barber.
Each of them had the ability to translate thoughts and messages into their work with their hands.
“Being an artist, drawing, and having an artistic mind, you kind of see things in detail and kind of look at things a little differently,” said Holmes, who has rushed 38 times for 202 yards through five games. “Out on the field, I’ll actually really be planning certain things out. I can come back and say, ‘Oh, yeah — I wanted to make this move because of this reason.’
“A lot of guys kind of pursue at a certain angle, or whatever. So having an artistic mind has me look at things differently with the way I move.”
Over time, that creative niche spilled over into Holmes’ every-day life. To this day, he continues to value expressive outlets. As recently highlighted by a Big Ten Network segment, Holmes, who majors in graphic design, can draw cartoons/caricatures with ease — but he’s also interested in other visual arts.
Eventually, he would like to run a video production company. Simply put, drawing was a steppingstone for Holmes, who has developed a keen sense of appreciation for all art forms.
“It kind of happened over the years, you know — middle school,” Holmes said of his love of drawing, sparked by watching cartoons such as Dragonball Z. “I used to always draw on the back of tests, back of exams. It got to the point where I kept doing it.
“But I kind of veered away from it in high school, when football started blowing up a lot. I kind of took time off from drawing and focused on football.”
Holmes’ focus could one day lead to the NFL. Since arriving in East Lansing, the former Flint Carman-Ainsworth star has spent the majority of his time trying to become a complete player.
The results have been self-explanatory.
“Pure balance,” Holmes replied when asked to describe his style. “I can give you everything you want in a tailback…”
Endurance — just like when he put the Spartans on his back during the first half of their 31-14 loss to BYU this past Saturday.
And don’t forget the catches. Holmes takes great pride in doing more than just toting the ball from the backfield.
“I’m more than just a power back, and I’ve shown that on multiple occasions,” said Holmes, who wants to be known as a “hybrid” who can do a bit of everything at a moment’s notice.
Give him space, and he’ll create. Put a brush or stylus into his hands, and he’ll animate. It’s all been part of the greater design and his comprehensive understanding of the game.
“Just his overall knowledge of an offense,” Dantonio said when asked about Holmes’ abilities and progression. “Especially pass production. I think he’s greatly improved his pass-catching skills. I think he’s developed good hands. And, then you know, he’s become more of a dynamic runner, as you’ve said. He’s learned to play with power at this level — which is not easy.
“He’s a very explosive player, in terms of his raw talent. And I think he’s got a future, maybe, in football as well.”