The Santonio Holmes you have gotten to know isn’t the one his teammates know — and respect.
Put aside images of the Jets wide receiver in incidents like last year’s Week 17 fight on the field in the fourth quarter of a loss at Miami or even the contentious media sessions with Holmes where at points the talented and enigmatic wide receiver appeared ready to snap. Teammates who line up with the player known as “Tone” in the locker room love the guy, even if the Jets fan base is leery of a player who comes across as unpredictable and selfish.
Ask rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill what he thinks of Holmes, and it isn’t what is portrayed on the back pages of New York’s newspapers.
“Oh no. What everybody says, he’s nothing like that. Santonio is a great teacher. He’s like a little big brother,” Hill told Metro. “He’s a great guy. I’ve been watching him with the Steelers, even with Ohio State. He’s a great guy.”
Holmes is seen as a mentor and a role model among a receiving corps where he is clearly the veteran of the bunch.
“Oh definitely. Of course, I’m learning a lot out here. He’s showing a lot that he did in other offenses; he’s showing how you can set up corners,” Hill said. “He’s giving me a lot of advice.”
Image is everything in the NFL, and Holmes suffers from a perception that may not be reality, but is largely his doing.
Last July after signing a five-year, $45.25 million contract extension with the Jets, Holmes took to Twitter to post a shirtless photo of himself downing a bottle of Cristal. Before a Week 5 loss in New England, a report surfaced that the veteran wide receivers went over the head of then offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to complain to head coach Rex Ryan about the direction of the offense.
In the locker room, Holmes doesn’t have that diva reputation, at least not that the young players on the team are willing to admit.
“Santonio is very approachable and is someone who is willing to teach and show the younger players how to do things,” rookie wide receiver Jordan White said. “It doesn’t need to be said, [but] you can go up to him and talk to him about anything, and he also is the kind of guy to come up to you and talk to you as well and share with you what he knows, what he learns. It is very easy that way. When he talks, you want to listen because he’s been there.”
Rookies like Hill are responding to a player who is much different than reported. He hasn’t shown the aggressive, selfish player to the youngest of the Jets.
“Santonio, he’s an adult,” Hill said. “Whatever everybody else says, that [persona] is definitely not him.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for more preseason news.