It's been an interesting few months for Giants rookie Darnay Holmes.
The Giants selected the UCLA corner in the fourth round (110th overall) of this year's draft, adding him to a deep group of young corners on the roster.
The beginning of Holmes' NFL career has been anything but normal. Due to COVID-19, all of the Giants' off-season programs were held virtually. For Holmes, a native of Pasadena, that meant participating in the virtual learning while staying on the west coast. The rookie would wake up every morning at 6 a.m. to prepare for the start of meetings at 7.
After spending the first 22 years of his life in California, Holmes is excited for what his future with the Giants holds. While he hasn't been able to meet his new teammates in person, the rookie has already begun to pick up pointers from some of the more experienced players in the cornerback room.
"I would say the biggest difference is, and it's a positive difference, is that I'm able to grab knowledge from the group who have been in the league for a long time, who have been in this game or this type of system," Holmes told Giants.com. "That's definitely a blessing being able to hear different inputs and different tactics on how to grasp different things. It's been going good for me."
Holmes had an impressive three-year career with the Bruins. As a freshman, he started 11 of 13 games and led the team with three interceptions, including returned for a touchdown. Holmes started all 12 games the following season and again paced the team with three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. He added 48 tackles (36 solo), one tackle for a loss, six passes defended and one fumble return.
As a junior last year, Holmes led UCLA in interceptions for the third consecutive season, picking off two passes in 10 starts. He was named All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2018-19.
Holmes is aware of the jump in talent from college to the pros. However, the rookie corner is confident that he is taking the proper steps to prepare himself for the challenges of the NFL.
"I'm pretty much sharpening my mind," Holmes said. "At the end of the day, everyone is at the same skill set. Everybody is on the same playing field. Now it's like, 'How am I going to separate myself?' I'm constantly placing people in my corner who have been in this realm, constantly educating myself about myself, educating myself about this game. So, once I step foot on that turf or on that grass, I'm ready to rock and I have that unwavering faith and belief in myself."
Holmes has plenty of football influences to lean on when trying to prepare for his rookie season, starting with his father, Darick, who spent parts of five seasons (1995-99) as an NFL running back. If he wants to look outside the family for some advice, the corner has a few Pro Football Hall of Famers he can call on, as well. Prior to the draft, Holmes listed Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson and Aenas Williams as his mentors.
In addition to his performance on defense, Holmes also played a role on special teams during his time at UCLA. As a freshman, he returned 33 kickoffs for 715 yards (21.7 avg.), finishing fourth in the conference in kickoff return yards. He returned just four kickoffs as a sophomore, but one went for a 93-yard TD.
Whether it's on defense or special teams, Holmes is ready for anything the Giants might ask of him.
"I see myself just playing a role in whatever they want me to play a role in," Holmes said. "If they want me to play gunner or wherever they want me to play, I'm going to go out there and really maximize that role. If I get back there and catch a few balls, I would definitely love to do that. But if not, I'm going to be the one who's encouraging that punt returner to make sure we have complimentary football going."
Holmes has also been a selfless player off the field. The Darnay Holmes Mentorship Program, part of The Future Elite Academy in Westlake Village, CA, "helps guide young people through obstacles on their athletic journeys."
Last month, Holmes was named as one of UCLA's 2019-20 Pac-12 Tom Hansen Conference Medal recipients. This honor is awarded every year to each institution's outstanding male and female student-athlete based on "the exhibition of the greatest combination of performance and achievement in scholarship, athletics and leadership."
Holmes, who earned his degree in three years and qualified for the Athletic Director's Honor Roll four times, played a big role in organizing the Pasadena Giants youth football program. The youth program is "an important endeavor" to the rookie corner, who wants to help mold the younger generation in a positive manner.
"My main thing is to just groom these kids to break barriers in life while they're enjoying the game they love, but really just creating men and women of a lifetime instead of a moment," Holmes said.
View photos of the entire 10-member New York Giants 2020 Draft Class