Not many defensive tackles of the Don James era (1975-92) had a more productive — or decorated — career than Ron Holmes (1982-84), who died Thursday at the age of 48 after battling diabetes and coronary issues. Although Steve Emtman (1988-91) will always be considered the premier defensive tackle to play under James, few others were in a class with Holmes.
Only four Washington defensive tackles have been named consensus All-America (19 UW players have been consensus All-America). Holmes became the second in 1984, following Tom Greenlee (1966) when he was selected first team by United Press International, the Football Writers Association, Football News and the Walter Camp Foundation (the Associated Press placed Holmes on its second team). Since Holmes, the only Husky defensive tackles named consensus All-America are Reggie Rogers (1985-86) and Emtman.
Holmes twice made first-team All-Pac-10 (1983-84) and earned the Morris Trophy, given to the conference’s top lineman, in 1984, when he was the Most Valuable Player on a Washington team that went 11-1 and defeated Oklahoma (video) in the 1985 Orange Bowl.
Holmes was the third in a string of outstanding defensive tackles that James recruited in the early part of his coaching tenure. First was Doug Martin (1976-79), a second-team All-America choice in 1979 (and a two-time All-Pac-10 pick) and the No. 9 overall selection in the 1980 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings, for whom Martin appeared in 126 games between 1980-89 (Martin made first-team All-Pro in 1982, when he led the NFL with 11.5 sacks).
Next came Fletcher Jenkins (1979-81), an all-Pac-10 choice in 1981 and also the Morris Trophy winner that year. He was a native of Olympia and a 1981 graduate of Timberline High School in Lacey, where he played both football and basketball.
Holmes had 28 sacks by the time he left Washington, most in school history and a record that stood until 2009, when Daniel Te’o Nesheim broke it (30). Holmes still co-holds (with linebacker Mark Stewart) Washington’s single-game record for sacks, five against Navy in 1983, and ranks second on the single-season list of sacks with 13 in 1983 (Jason Chorak broke Holmes’ record with 14.5 sacks in 1996).
Holmes, who still holds Washington’s single-season record for tackles for loss, 23 in 1983, appeared in three bowl games, the 1982 and 1983 Aloha bowls, and the ’85 Orange Bowl. After using his eligibility, Holmes played in the 1985 East-West Shrine game in advance of that year’s draft.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Holmes the No. 8 overall choice in the 1985 draft. He spent four years with the Bucs (1985-88) and four more with the Denver Broncos, retiring after the 1992 season, having made one appearance in the Super Bowl (XXIV). Holmes played in 102 NFL games (76 starts), most by a James-coached UW defensive tackle with the exception of Martin (126).
At the time of his death, Holmes worked at A&E Relocation Services in Olympia.