Hooper: Rams scouting director traces roots back to Chamberlain

Brad Holmes has gone from making coffee and copiers to playing a key role in Los Angeles' roster reconstruction.
Tampa native and Chamberlain High graduate Brad Holmes, standing to the right of Rams general manager Les Snead, serves as the Rams director of college scouting. Holmes started as a scouting intern. (AP Photo/G. Newman Lowrance)
Tampa native and Chamberlain High graduate Brad Holmes, standing to the right of Rams general manager Les Snead, serves as the Rams director of college scouting. Holmes started as a scouting intern. (AP Photo/G. Newman Lowrance)
Published January 30

Amateur draftniks and armchair quarterbacks dream of scouting for an NFL team.

The envision arriving at some sparkling Power Five football facility with logo-attired golf shirts and khakis, kicking it with the head coach and asking probing questions of the team’s top players. On game day, you sit in premium seats, take in the action and jot down a few notes about big plays. It’s the life.

Brad Holmes has a news flash for the wannabe personnel gurus about “the life.”

It’s not that easy.

“I love what I do, but they don’t see the other side of it,” Holmes said. “The long drives late at night. Pulling into town on the dark back roads after midnight, getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning to write five reports and then doing it all over again.

“The grind gets tough, but it’s cool.”

Holmes will reap one of the game’s biggest rewards from all those late nights and early mornings when his Los Angeles Rams take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. As the Rams director of college scouting, Holmes not only will enjoy the game and the week, but he’ll also enjoy sleeping in his own bed.

With the Southeast serving as his primary scouting area, Holmes actually lives in Atlanta. The assignment not only keeps him close to powerhouse ACC and SEC teams, it allows him to come home to Tampa every now and then, and get some of his mom’s meatloaf and macaroni and cheese. Joan Holmes, the longtime Hillsborough Community College equity and diversity coordinator, who retired last year, beams when talking about Brad.

“He just has a passion and love for football,” mom said. “He’s always loved it.”

Holmes grew up in the area, starred as the captain of the Chamberlain Chiefs 1996 team (he also was Homecoming king) and went on to North Carolina A&T, where he again rose to become captain of the team. It helped to have a lineage that included his father, former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Mel Holmes, and his grandfather, legendary South Carolina high school coach Luther Bradley (his middle name is Bradley).

Brad Holmes, left, was a captain on the Chamberlain Chiefs football team in 1996. (Times file)
Brad Holmes, left, was a captain on the Chamberlain Chiefs football team in 1996. (Times file)

Yet his road to NFL scout proved challenging. First, Holmes overcame a serious auto accident in his senior year of college that left him in a coma for a week. Even after he recovered, he wrestled with getting a foot in the door of an NFL team. He actually took his public relations degree and worked for the Atlanta Hawks, all in the hopes of becoming a scout. He also held in his heart a desire to play.

Holmes turned to networking, reaching out to All Sports Community Service founder Tyrone Keys, who connected him with former Bucs and NFL executive Martin Mayhew. At the same time, he shared with his Hawks bosses that he wanted to become an NFL scout.

Eventually, he landed a spot as an intern that was long in hours and short on glamour.

“It was all about the grunt work and the grind and climbing the ropes,” Holmes said. “I was picking up guys from the airport, fetching coffee, making copies.”

What sustained his efforts? In short, mom and dad. His father, who died in December 2015, lent encouragement, telling him no matter what, he was better served striving for a front-office role than looking to succeed on the field as he did for the Steelers. His mother lent support and a shining example. Brad said when required to toil late at night or early in the morning, he recalled his mother working on complex applications for grants and proposals.

It’s emotional to me because I do know the journey,” Joan Holmes said. “I know the financial journey, the travel journey. To get to the Super Bowl despite all of the obstacles, the stress, running around, always on the road. It makes it emotional for me because I know he stuck with it. He kept his eyes on the prize.”

Through regime changes and promotions, Holmes said he never stopped grinding. Now he’s working with Rams GM Les Snead and others on his scouting team to help shape the roster. Holmes wouldn’t say he played a singular role in the acquisition of any particular player, but he noted that his staff implored the team to select Boston College safety John Johnson in the third round of the 2017 draft and he’s proven to be one of the team’s top defenders.

In 15 years of scouting at colleges big and small, Holmes has gone from using a Rand McNally Atlas to MapQuest to GPS in making his rise. He holds out hope of some day finding a route to the pinnacle position of GM, but said for now he plans to continue focusing on fulfilling his current roles. Sticking to the grind is how he made it this far.

That’s all I’m saying.

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