- - Thursday, September 13, 2012

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Frank Beamer has been the face of the Virginia Tech football program for 26 years. Not that Michael Holmes noticed.

When Holmes, now a redshirt freshman and the Hokies’ starting tailback, was a senior in high school, Beamer and a pair of assistants visited him in Harrisonburg to offer him a scholarship.

“Mike just looked up and said, ‘That’s great. Which one of you is Coach Beamer?’” Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said this week. “We were like, ‘Wow.’”

Two years later, Holmes has gotten to know Beamer, the winningest active coach in college football. He’s learned a lot about the biggest teams, players and coaches in the sport.

But back then, Holmes wasn’t all that interested.

“I really didn’t get into football that much until I got an offer,” Holmes said. “I never watched college football. I was probably like a cartoon guy, go out and play with my little brother.”

Had he spent more time in front of the television, Holmes might have developed more a showman’s flare. Instead, his reaction to his touchdowns are so ho-hum, teammates had to check him for a pulse on the Hokies’ sideline after he scored his second touchdown against Austin Peay on Saturday.

“Logan [Thomas] got on him on the sideline for not being more excited,” Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer said. “He’s like, ‘Why are you so chill?’ Mike’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ That’s just how he is.”

And how he’s always been. In high school at Harrisonburg, Va., as the area’s top football star, Holmes felt uncomfortable with the attention he received from local media, deflecting praise to teammates, declining interview requests, even lingering in the shower to avoid reporters after a state playoff win.

It was in high school where he was taught to show respect and appreciation for his offensive line by handing the ball to the referee after scoring a touchdown instead of calling attention to himself. And that’s the muted celebration Holmes still uses in college.

“He was a very genuine teammate,” said Joe Carico, Holmes‘ offensive coordinator in high school.

Now, with the spotlight a thousand times brighter at Virginia Tech, Holmes said he won’t be jazzing up his end zone act. He said facing a bevy of reporters and cameras still makes him uneasy.

“I’m kind of shy,” Holmes said. “I’m just uncomfortable with stuff like this. Obviously, I’m going to have to be [comfortable].”

He will, because as much as he struggles with being the center of attention, he’s handled the role of being Tech’s starting tailback with a calm ease.

A year after the Hokies leaned so heavily on tailback David Wilson, now in the NFL with the New York Giants, Holmes has emerged as the team’s top rusher. Through two games, Holmes has rushed for 94 yards on 22 carries, scoring two touchdowns. It’s modest production, but Shane Beamer notes Holmes‘ more-than-respectable 4.3 yards-per-carry average.

And of course, he is sharing carries with true freshman J.C. Coleman and Thomas, a duel-threat quarterback.

Still, Holmes and Coleman already have heard the criticism from fans and the media that they haven’t broken any long runs this season. Holmes‘ longest run is a 19-yarder and Coleman’s best went for 13.

The Hokies’ longest run so far has come on a 26-yard reverse by senior wide receiver Marcus Davis.

“We’re just trying to be patient,” Holmes said. “I’m sure the big plays will happen.”

Still, Frank Beamer said he’s more than happy with the production of Holmes, Coleman, junior Tony Gregory and senior Martin Scales. So much so, Beamer said he now plans to redshirt freshman tailback Trey Edmunds, who had dressed for games in case the Hokies needed him.

Instead, Tech will lean on Holmes and Coleman. And if Holmes gets into the end zone Saturday at Pittsburgh, don’t look for him to spice up his celebration.

“I plan on doing the same thing,” Holmes said quietly. “I’ll just give the ball to the ref and go back to the sideline.”

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