Q&A With Ricklan Holmes, Head Coach Of John Tyler

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TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: What are your goals going into this season?

COACH HOLMES​: To win and be successful, the main goal every year is to win a district championship first and foremost, and then by doing that and taking care of business move forward into the playoffs. We want to put ourselves into position where we have home field advantage for that first game, I feel that’s real important, not only to our program, but to our fans to have that first game in Rose Stadium. I believe as long as we stay healthy we have a great shot, we played 16 sophomores last season and we went three rounds deep into the playoffs and were co-district champions with Longview. I look forward to a great amount of success out of this football team, we have some new coaches on the staff, some that I’ve been trying to bring on board for years now and I believe they will be a great asset for us. We have the kids to get the job done, we just have to make sure that they know on a consistent basis what to do.

TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: With the 16 starters returning off an 11-2 team, do you believe their experience gives you an advantage in tight ball games?

COACH HOLMES: ​Most definitely, they’ve been in that situation already we’ve had several tight ball games last year and we only came out unsuccessful in one of those games, and that was our one district loss to Rockwall. Our team was able to overcome that game and go on a
run in the tough district that we do have, that comes with experience and you have to bump your head before you understand the reasoning behind it. With the kids we have returning that’s going to be a huge advantage for us moving into this season and we didn’t have that advantage last season; don’t get me wrong we had great talent last year even with the great QB we had that helped with the growth of our other kids moving forward into this season. The team has come out of the spring focused and now that they have game experience it’s exciting to see, because no matter how well you practice you can’t duplicate game speed, you know you can stop a practice and make a necessary adjustment and get it done right the next time, but in the game it doesn’t happen that way and that’s where you learn to do things on the fly.

TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: What do you feel your team needed to improve on the most during the offseason?

COACH HOLMES: ​I think our secondary, it’s the one area that we have to trying to improve since we lost in the third round to Klein Collins. Last year the secondary was our weakness and we want to make sure that it’s one of our strong points going into this season, we got a new safety coach coming in and I believe he’s going to do a great job getting our back end together, as well as our veteran corner coach who is already here. I feel that run wise our front 7 is amazing, but our back 8 wasn’t getting the job done and that’s why we were in a lot of tight ball games, we were giving up too many big plays; I know we’re going to give a big plays that’s just the belly of the beast, but you want to minimize that and that’s something we struggled with last season even with the talent level that we had. The communication level was low with those guys and that’s something we have addressed during the spring and 7 on 7, and we had great success this summer with 7 on 7 making it to a national tournament and getting second place, that’s not bad!

TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: What team do you feel will be the biggest threat at stopping y’all from winning the district championship?

COACH HOLMES: ​Everybody, it’s going to be tough, you look at Rockwall who’s returning a lot of kids, Rockwall Heath who’s returning a lot of kids off a young team that the had last year. North Mesquite is back on the rise from the team they had 2 years ago, not last year but 2 years ago. Then there is a young, vibrant, changing the culture at Mesquite High, the coach is getting a lot of kids back into the program, that need to be in the program and I’m looking for a lot of success out of them. Mesquite Horn, yeah they lost their QB, but the guy the had behind him is really good too, so offensively and defensively they’re not going to struggle. Then you look at Longview, Longview is Longview they will be tough year in and year out, you know what you’re going to get from them. Tyler Lee has a new coach coming in that is looking to change the culture, the players are there, they have always been there and to see and know where he is coming from and the success that he has had there, you look to see that out of this Lee team this year. Our district is going to be a battle every week and I don’t think the champion will be determined until the next to last week of the season. I know they have us picked to win district
now and that’s based off the success we had last year and the amount of guys we have returning versus everybody else in our district, but like I told our kids that means nothing you still have to play the game. Last season nobody had us picked to make the playoffs and we ended up being co-district champions and beating the team we got the co-district champions with and then going 3 rounds deep in the playoffs, so like I told them predictions don’t mean nothing it’s not how you start it’s how you finish!

TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: With all the talent on East Texas and Metroplex teams in your district, do you believe that better prepares your players once they make it to the next level?

COACH HOLMES: ​Oh most definitely, that’s why my whole focus goal preseason is scheduling tough teams because if we don’t meet teams like that early, how are we going to be prepared when meet a team like that later in the season? Every district isn’t strong like our district, the district that we were in before we got jumped up to 6a, we only had 2 or 3 opponents that were tough. The district was competitive, but I didn’t feel it was physical enough to get us mentally prepared to go 4 or 5 games deep in the playoffs. The non-district games we played at that time were more important than the district games to me because the talent level of those teams was better. A lot of people need to stop ducking and dodging early, they say they’re trying to build their team up, but in reality they’re hindering them because if you don’t get bit early you never know what it feels like and if you don’t know what it feels like you won’t be able to react to it later on during the season.

TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: To be a successful coach like yourself, you have to build a strong relationship with your players. After forming that bond, are you able to keep it once they have moved on, or does it eventually fade?

COACH HOLMES: ​Most definitely I got kids that still talk with me to this day, a lot of them are playing professional football right now; the deals that those kids bring back to our program right now like the graphics on the doors, the renovated weight room all that has to do with the relationships we keep with our kids. You have to let everyone know that you care about them and that it’s genuine, like I tell all of my kids I want to win a State Championship, but at the end of the day I want to make sure I set them up to be successful in life. The only way that they can be successful in life to me, is to get an education, first and foremost in high school, then in college. I believe that with a college degree you can do anything you want to do with your life, but I use football, I use sports as that avenue to get them to the place that they need to be. I’m not training these kids to play in the NFL, I’m training them to go to college and to be successful in college, then the success they have in college it may propel them to the NFL, but if it doesn’t then at least I know they are going to leave there with their Bachelor’s Degree and be successful without sports.

TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: I noticed that you made Delven Woods and Greg Guerrero team captains, what have they shown that helped you decide they were the right choices for this year’s team?

COACH HOLMES: ​Consistency, those two young men have not only shown what they can do work ethic wise and being there everyday, but by understanding what we as a staff we are presenting to the team and being onboard. Greg has been more vocal than Delven, he’s a little more outspoken, but Delven is young he’s growing up and maturing. Both young men have mental toughness and you never question that, you know that in a tight game, rough game, game that’s not going right, they are going to be the guys that are consistent enough to get us out that hole. If something goes wrong on offense Delven is going to be there to fix it and if something goes wrong on defense Greg is going to be there to fix it.

TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: What do you feel is your greatest achievement as a coach to date?

COACH HOLMES​: ​Having kids graduate. In 5 years I believe it’s 59 out of 62 kids that have signed scholarships and gone on and out of them only 3 that have not continued their education, I think that’s a big thing. The rest of them are still in school, most of them have graduated and moved on, 3 to the NFL out of my first class, knowing that they have gone on and continued their education like we’ve preached since day one that shows that they’ve listened. My biggest accomplishment isn’t the 51-14 record in 5 years, or the 3 semi-final appearances in 5 years, it’s not 4 district championships in 5 years; it’s the kids that have gone on got their college degree and then yeah I stick my chest out for my guys that’s in the NFL too, I got a kid that won a Super Bowl ring and another that lost in the Super Bowl last season, as well as the 3 that’s making noise now so, yeah you’re pretty proud of that too!

TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: What does CUJO mean and how did it originate?

COACH HOLMES: ​CUJO originated early in the 70’s in a game between John Tyler and Odessa Permian, Permian fans started yelling MOJO and somebody started yelling CUJO and it stuck. CUJO was a saying, but it really became a meaning with Coach Allen Wilson, he tagged a meaning to that, I believe a lot of people are chanting it as a motivator, but he gave a true definition to it which is NEVER QUIT, NEVER DIE! That’s one of the reasons why you never see the CUJO jerseys until playoffs, because if you don’t quit then you move on, but as soon as you quit and you give up you’re out of the playoffs.

TEXASHSFOOTBALL.COM: What is your opinion on players from Texas leaving their current high schools for IMG Academy?

COACH HOLMES: ​I look at it two ways and this goes back to something that my grandfather taught me which was you got to understand everything, but you don’t have to agree with it. With IMG I look at it as giving kids a different opportunity to be in a different place that they probably never would have been in, but their in that place because of something that God gave them, which is a great talent and ability. I think the coaches at IMG are doing a great job of corralling that talent and getting them to play together, but it’s taking away the most important aspect of the game that we all say we love which is the competition and the goal driven achievements. When a kid leaves a school he’s not just leaving the school he’s leaving his family and just the one who birthed him, but his team and that team that he left is still going for a goal, but now they going without you, so how do you feel about that? You has a person are you going to spend the rest of your life chasing a moment or chasing a goal? When you jump ship and go to IMG you’re not going towards a goal anymore because it’s not helping you with recruiting, because before you left that high school you were still that same athlete, you’re still going to have the same offers. If IMG was helping kids get more exposure then I would be like look that’s a great place for kids to go, but they are going after kids who already have plenty of offers, what more can you do with a kid that has every SEC offer there is? The world needs schools like IMG because to me it teaches everybody a lesson, it teaches people to understand that there is a reason behind everything that somebody does and to understand that and I hate to put it this way, but you have to have a necessary evil because without no villain, who could be the hero? We have a saying here LION’S PRIDE, L-leadership, I-integrity, O-ownership, N-next, S-selfless; you have to have all these things to play this game because it’s a team game! For a team to win without a guy with that kind of talent to move on should tell you all you need to know about IMG, you shouldn’t worry about IMG, I’m not worried about IMG, I think our culture, my relationship with my kids and this community is strong enough to keep a kid here and not go to IMG. I feel our kids believe we have way more to offer than anybody outside of this program, unless you’re a college.


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